Iran at IAEA: Saudi claims about safety at Bushehr plant misleading

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file photo shows the reactor building of the Bushehr nuclear power plant just outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran. (By AP)

Iran’s envoy to the UN nuclear watchdog has rejected Saudi Arabia’s “misleading” claims about safety standards at the Bushehr power plant, warning against attempts at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to politicize technical issues.

Speaking at a meeting of the IAEA’s Board of Governors on Monday, Iran’s permanent representative to Vienna-based international organizations, Kazem Gharibabadi, dismissed the Saudi envoy’s allegations as “too far from reality and highly misleading.”

“The problem arises when technical issues turn political,” he added.

Gharibabadi did not specify the claims made by Saudi Arabia, but Riyadh has in the past alleged that potential radioactive leakage from the nuclear power plant could endanger the Persian Gulf region, including the kingdom’s air, food and water desalination stations.

The Bushehr facility sits 17 kilometers southeast of the city of Bushehr along the Persian Gulf coast in southwestern Iran.

The Iranian official further outlined the safety status of the 1,000-megawatt Bushehr power plant — the first operational nuclear facility in Iran constructed by Russia’s Atomstroyexport company.

Gharibabadi said Iran, as a state receiving technical assistance from the Agency, recognizes the importance of such support in strengthening its national nuclear safety infrastructure.

He reminded that the IAEA had conducted an “Integrated Regulatory Review Service” mission at the Bushehr plant in February and March 2020, which was assessed as satisfactory.

The IAEA delegation “concluded that Iran’s nuclear safety system has the competence, capacity, and capability to monitor nuclear power activities,” he said.

Unlike Iran, Saudi Arabia, as a newcomer, has been developing and advancing a “non-transparent” nuclear program, said Gharibabadi. “It should be emphasized that the main responsibility in the area of nuclear safety lies with the member state itself and this not a commodity that could be imported.”

He further referred to Saudi plans to dig a canal along the border with Qatar, part of which will reportedly serve as a nuclear waste facility.

Saudi Arabia is “adopting an irresponsible approach towards not only its own people and environment, but also the safety of the region and its neighbors,” he pointed out.

The Iranian official also pointed to the construction of two nuclear power reactors underway in Saudi Arabia, calling on the kingdom to provide the IAEA with a “transparent” and “comprehensive” plan on ensuring nuclear safety at the facilities.

He also urged foreign service providers to Saudi Arabia to guarantee that the kingdom would meet the highest levels of environmental and safety requirements.

The Bushehr power plant started operating in 2011 and reached its full capacity the following year.

In 2014, Russia signed a cooperation contract with Iran to help build the second and third Bushehr reactors, which are scheduled for launch in 2024 and 2026, respectively.

Iran has repeatedly enunciated its nuclear program as exclusively civilian, subject to the most intensive UN supervisions ever.

Tehran signed a nuclear deal in 2015 with six world countries, which forged close cooperation between Iran and the Agency.

The IAEA has been tasked with supervising the technical aspects of the agreement’s implementation.

The US, however, severely undermined the pact by abandoning it in May 2018 despite numerous IAEA reports on Tehran’s full compliance with the deal.

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