Commentary Magazine


Topic: Chernobyl

Iran Prepares for its Chernobyl

One of the most under-reported aspects of the Iranian nuclear program is its environmental impact. The entirety of Iran is one big earthquake zone; there are no safe areas. Indeed, Iranian officials every so often suggest moving the capital out of Tehran simply because that city is both overdue for the big one and relatively unprepared. One of the world’s best Iran specialists got his start as an earthquake surveyor in Iran.

Against this backdrop, Iran today announced its appointment of a commander for nuclear and radiation emergencies. A nuclear accident in Iran is inevitable. When it happens, it will be bigger than that in Japan because, as devastating as the earthquake and tsunami were at Fukushima, the Japanese government was organized enough—despite its miscues—to respond and to welcome foreign assistance. The Soviet response to Chernobyl in contrast was handicapped by a culture of secrecy and bureaucratic fear. In Iran, only the Supreme Leader could make an effective call on such issues as humanitarian assistance and, by the time he did, it may be too late for hundreds of thousands of people, not only in Iran but given the prevailing winds, also in portions of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

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One of the most under-reported aspects of the Iranian nuclear program is its environmental impact. The entirety of Iran is one big earthquake zone; there are no safe areas. Indeed, Iranian officials every so often suggest moving the capital out of Tehran simply because that city is both overdue for the big one and relatively unprepared. One of the world’s best Iran specialists got his start as an earthquake surveyor in Iran.

Against this backdrop, Iran today announced its appointment of a commander for nuclear and radiation emergencies. A nuclear accident in Iran is inevitable. When it happens, it will be bigger than that in Japan because, as devastating as the earthquake and tsunami were at Fukushima, the Japanese government was organized enough—despite its miscues—to respond and to welcome foreign assistance. The Soviet response to Chernobyl in contrast was handicapped by a culture of secrecy and bureaucratic fear. In Iran, only the Supreme Leader could make an effective call on such issues as humanitarian assistance and, by the time he did, it may be too late for hundreds of thousands of people, not only in Iran but given the prevailing winds, also in portions of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Just as gay rights activists expose their hypocrisy when they express solidarity with Hamas and castigate Israel, the number of environmental groups who remain quiet on Iran’s nuclear ambitions for fear of adopting a position that segues with U.S. national security interests is illustrating, indeed, about the true priorities of the environmental lobby.

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