Monday, August 16, 2010

The most expensive nuclear power plant

According to Iran’s state news agency, the Bushehr nuclear plant is due to be inaugurated by 21st August with Russia having promised to both provide the and to take back the fuel.

The Bushehr plant goes down in the history books as one of the, if not ‘the’ most expensive nuclear plants in the history. Originally, under the Shah’s reign in mid seventies, the German company of Siemens AG was contracted to construct and deliver the plant. But soon after the revolution, the Germans withdrew from the project and the plant was left with only 50% of the construction completed. In mid nineties a Russian company called ‘Atomstroiexport’ was contracted to complete the remaining 50% of the plant. But since the German technology was unfamiliar and ahead of the Russian experts, the Russians were forced to rebuild many parts of the plant according to their own specifications and available technology.

15 years later and still the plant is in process of completion, and while there have been many ebbs and flows in the speed of construction, Russia has used this plant as a leverage and a bargaining chip used in its dealings with both Iran, winning countless concessions from Iran in various areas, as well as with its dealings with the west, especially the United States. Worthy mentions could be the Eastern Europe Missile Shield, or the States’ silence in Georgia.

According to today’s reality, the cost of building a brand new 1000 Megawatt nuclear plant would be about $700-750 Million. But so far, the Bushehr plant has cost Iranians somewhere between 2 to 4 Billion Dollars and still counting, with technology that is no longer safe or comparable to the modern plants. And that is limited to the actual cost of building of the plant and getting it ready for use. At the same time, one may be inclined to add the countless concessions, favors and sweetened deals offered to the Russians along the past couple of decades.

It is no wonder it is claimed to be the most expensive plant whose cost will be mounting as we consider its repercussions on the environment. Its social and economical impacts is another cause for worry, as Iran has come under increasing pressure from the world community for its general adventurism related to its nuclear ambitions.

Putin’s cold shoulder

Although Prime Minister Putin was planned to attend the ceremonies, he has, since, canceled the trip and the highest Russian official attending the inauguration is the head of Russia’s atomic agency. Putin’s cancellation only underlines the cooling off of relations between Moscow and Tehran.
Iran has claimed the plant should be operational by mid September. However Novikov, the spokesman for Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency, says the plant will not be ready to produce energy for another six months.

On Friday, the White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: "It, quite clearly, I think, underscores that Iran does not need its own enrichment capability if its intentions, as it states, are for a peaceful nuclear program” pointing towards several offers the west had made to Iran to supply the fuel and enriched Uranium, which will cost Iran far less than Iran actually enriching it indigenously. Offers that were rebuffed by the Islamic regime, thus leading the country down the path of ever tightening sanctions and hardship for the people of Iran.

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