While Japan’s unfolding nuclear and humanitarian crisis resurrected longstanding fears in the West about the safety of nuclear power and the potential vulnerabilities of the world’s over 400 operational nuclear power plants, among Iranians it seems to have inaugurated a long overdue debate.
Though the Iranian government’s nuclear program, dubiously marked by poor safety practices and earthquake-prone topography, creates the potential risk for a natural-cum-radioactive disaster like that at Fukushima, Japan, up until now there has been little of the way of a public debate in Iran. A combination of misguided nationalism and government misinformation has compelled many non-official Iranian elites — including staunch regime critics — to support the Islamic Republic’s self-professed “inalienable” nuclear pursuits.
Since Japan’s tragedy, however, a growing number of Iranian opinion makers are arguing in open letters, media interviews, and blogs that the government’s nuclear program is in fact endangering, not enhancing, the security and economic well being of its citizenry. Will it make any difference?
Iranian officials’ boasting about their nuclear security should only accentuate concerns about its safety. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – who has compared Iran’s nuclear program to “a train with no breaks” and once claimed that a 16-year-old Iranian girl created atomic energy in her kitchen — recently responded to safety concerns about the country’s sole … >>>