For Iran, energy woes justify nuclear push
Many Iranians see the Nuclear Suppliers Group's Saturday decision that could permit nuclear trade with India as a double standard.
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The Russian-built nuclear reactor at Bushehr is to produce 1,000 megawatts, but has experienced chronic delays and may not be on-line by year's end.Skip to next paragraph
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"The past couple of summers we have been right on the edge," says Mohammad Ahmadian, the British-educated deputy minister of energy for 11 years in Iran who now advises the minister. Gas turbine and even some coal plants are due to be built in coming years.
In August, Iran's Atomic Energy Organization issued contracts to six local companies to find sites for new atomic plants. Officials have spoken of plans for 19 more 1,000-megawatt plants.
"We have a serious need of nuclear power," says Mr. Ahmadian. He adds that a matrix developed by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, which includes all of a country's energy variables, shows that Iran will need "a considerable number" of nuclear power plants in the future.
"Because of the need and the benefits of nuclear energy we are still following this. We will reach it," he says.
But any nuclear solution is far in the future. An incentives package offered to Iran by the US, Russia, China, France, England, and Germany would provide Iran with civilian nuclear technology if it suspends nuclear enrichment. Iranian officials have vowed never to give up enrichment, however, and point out that Europe never fulfilled similar promises during a previous suspension.
"It's clear Iran suspended for three years and got nothing, and now they see that India gets the technology," says a Western diplomat in Tehran. So Iranians ask, " 'Why are we the only ones who can't do it?' "
With the energy crunch, Iran often appears to have gone backward: Last winter gas shortages and subzero temperatures caused a national outcry; this summer the power outages meant that generators lined the sidewalks as they do more commonly in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"If we can have nuclear technology which is actually safe and cost-effective, it makes sense, simply because of sustainability," says an analyst in Tehran. "Right now, it is excruciatingly expensive what they are doing … and it [will be] for a long time to come."