As Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant went online last week, the government announced that $50 million has been allocated to resettle the 4,000 residents of the nearby villages of Heleylah and Bandargah. The relocation was ordered by Iran’s tomic Energy Organization despite assurances that the plant is safe. A Russian engineer who worked on the plant, Alexander Bolgarov, meanwhile told the Associated Press of corner-cutting and ongoing technical problems at the site, including poor welding, accumulations of sludge in the reactor core, and malfunctioning turbines and emergency pumps. However, Bolgarov disputed reports that Bushehr’s computerized control system had been infected last year by Stuxnet, the computer worm, which attacked other Iranian nuclear facilities.
Bushehr is the first nuclear power plant in Iran, andalso the first throughout the Middle East. Construction was started by the German Kraftwerk Union in 1974. In 1980 the contract was terminated as the Western German government signed on to the US embargo on supplying equipment to Iran. In 1992, Russia and Iran signed an agreement to continue construction, and in 1998 construction management was transferred to the Russian firm AtomStroyExport. (AP, Sept. 22; Trend, Azerbaijan, Sept. 20)