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Nuclear reactors in the Middle East are vulnerable to missile strikes

Report: Missile strike risks to Middle East nuclear reactors,  A new study explores potential radiological fallout and evacuations from a missile strike on commercial nuclear power plants. [Excellent maps]  Aljazeera,   By Patricia Sabga, 8 Dec 21, 

Deliberate attacks on nuclear reactors may seem almost unthinkable – unless the reactor is located in the Middle East, a region that has the dubious distinction of being the only place on the planet where aerial assaults on nuclear facilities are known to have happened.

As debate intensifies in the wake of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) over what role nuclear energy should play in global decarbonisation efforts, a new report published on Wednesday brings to light the radiological fallout and subsequent evacuations that could result if a state-of-the-art missile or drone successfully attacks an existing or planned commercial nuclear power plant in the Middle East.

Produced by the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), a Washington, DC-based research institute, the study offers a rare publically available analysis of conflict risks to nuclear facilities in the Middle East, warning that a successful strike on a commercial nuclear power plant there “could result in the evacuation of millions of people, many of whom would not be able to return to their homes for several decades”.

“Building large, vulnerable power reactors in the Middle East is a pretty weird way to hug Mother Earth,” NPEC Director Henry Sokolski told Al Jazeera. “It was time to spell out what the implications [of a successful missile attack] would be in a place like the Middle East, which is clearly entertaining building and operating more nuclear plants.”

Produced by the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), a Washington, DC-based research institute, the study offers a rare publically available analysis of conflict risks to nuclear facilities in the Middle East, warning that a successful strike on a commercial nuclear power plant there “could result in the evacuation of millions of people, many of whom would not be able to return to their homes for several decades”.

“Building large, vulnerable power reactors in the Middle East is a pretty weird way to hug Mother Earth,” NPEC Director Henry Sokolski told Al Jazeera. “It was time to spell out what the implications [of a successful missile attack] would be in a place like the Middle East, which is clearly entertaining building and operating more nuclear plants.”

Other nuclear safety experts agree.

“I think it is absolutely critical that people and communities are made aware of the very great risk involved in building nuclear [power plants] in an area of high potential conflict risk,” Paul Dorfman, an associate fellow at the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex, told Al Jazeera.

The map below, [on original] for example, illustrates four current and planned commercial nuclear power plants and the evacuation footprints – including in surrounding countries – that could follow a successful aerial assault on a densely packed spent fuel pool, where discarded radioactive fuel rods are cooled before being moved to more permanent storage.

“This alarming image should prompt nations to carefully evaluate and mitigate the risks and plausible consequences of constructing and operating nuclear power reactors,” said the report…………..  

Given the increased interest in nuclear energy in the Middle East, its unique history of air strikes on nuclear facilities, and the emergence of non-state actors wielding advanced military firepower, NPEC believes that any cost-benefit analysis of commercial nuclear power plants in the region needs to include a public disclosure of the potential radiological fallout and population displacements that could result from a successful aerial strike on a facility.

“There have been no fewer than 13 air strikes since the very early 80s against a variety of [nuclear] reactors [in the Middle East], mostly by air forces and attempts with very inaccurate missiles like Scuds,” said Sokolski…………….   

 aerial strike technology has come a long way since the early 1980s, when Israel and Iran bombed Iraq’s Osirak reactor, or even 2007, when Israel destroyed a suspected reactor under construction in Syria.

“Missiles and drones with high accuracies of 1-10 meters, one thousand times more accurate than during the 1990s,” are available to both state and non-state actors, the report warns……..   https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2021/12/8/report-missile-strike-risks-to-middle-east-nuclear-reactors

December 9, 2021 - Posted by | safety, UK

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