Kuwait urged Iran recently to cooperate more with the United Nations nuclear watchdog to allay Gulf Arab concerns about the safety of an Iranian nuclear power plant that lies just across the waterway from the emirate.
The Kuwaiti emir, Sheik Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, said a recent shutdown at the plant indicated that Tehran had to work with the International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna, to ensure the safety of the facility, near the coastal town of Bushehr.
He was speaking in Bahrain at the annual meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a group of six oil-exporting Gulf Arab countries at odds with Tehran over a variety of issues. The council sees Iran as a rival for regional influence.
The Bushehr plant, built in Russia and a symbol of what Iran calls its peaceful nuclear ambitions, was shut down in October to limit any damage after stray bolts were found beneath its fuel cells, a Russian nuclear industry source said in November.
That contradicted assurances by Iran that nothing unexpected had happened and that removing nuclear fuel from the 1,000-megawatt plant was part of a normal procedure.
Sheik Sabah said, “The news that was reported recently about the technical failure that hit the Bushehr reactor confirms what we mentioned about the importance of Iranian cooperation with the I.A.E.A., and committing to its criteria and rule, to ensure the safety of the region’s states and its people from any effect of radioactivity.”
Iran is not part of the 75-nation Convention on Nuclear Safety, which was negotiated after the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine. Iran is the only country known to produce nuclear power that is not a signatory.
Although the West suspects Iran of trying to develop the means to build nuclear arms — a charge it denies — Bushehr is not considered a major proliferation risk by Western states, whose fears are focused on sites where Iran has defied global pressure by enriching uranium beyond levels needed to fuel civilian atomic power plants.
Nevertheless Western officials voiced concern in November about what they described as an unexpected unloading of fuel at Bushehr and said Tehran must clarify the issue.
The plant, whose start-up was delayed for years over construction problems, was finally plugged into Iran’s national grid in September 2011. The plant’s Russian builder was quoted in October as saying Bushehr would be formally “handed over for use” to Iran in March 2013.
Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency said in November that Tehran was determined to guarantee safety at Bushehr after the turnover.
Sheik Sabah also appealed to Iran to resolve separate longstanding disputes with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Kuwait. Several have oppressed Shiite populations and suspect Iran is fomenting unrest.
“We renew our calls to our brothers in Iran to respond to our invitations to put an end to pending issues between the G.C.C. countries and Iran,” he said, either “through direct negotiations or by resorting to international arbitration.”
Source: The New York Times