IAEA chief backs sending experts to check Iran's Bushehr plant

DUBAI Sat May 11, 2013 3:49pm BST

Iran's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano reacts as he attends a news conference during a board of governors meeting at the UN headquarters in Vienna March 4, 2013. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer

Iran's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano reacts as he attends a news conference during a board of governors meeting at the UN headquarters in Vienna March 4, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Herwig Prammer

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DUBAI (Reuters) - The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it would be a good idea to send experts to check the safety of Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor, a day after Iran said its facilities were safe following a nearby earthquake.

Iranian officials and the Russian company that built Bushehr, Iran's only nuclear power reactor, said it was unscathed by last month's earthquake.

But that has not stopped fears about safety in a country that sits on major faultlines, especially as Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation said just hours after the earthquake that more reactors would be built there.

"(I think) it is better to send experts to check on the safety of Iran's Bushehr reactor," Yukiya Amano was quoted as telling the Bahrain News Agency in Manama on Saturday.

It was not immediately clear which experts Amano was referring to. The IAEA was not immediately available for comment.

"What I can say about this is that the centre of the earthquake was away from the Bushehr reactor which was designed and built in the 1970s ... in a way that qualifies it to withstand an earthquake of that magnitude," Amano told BNA.

Iran's environmental protection chief said on Friday the country's nuclear and hydropower facilities were well protected from cyber attacks and even the most powerful earthquakes.

Iran is the only country operating a nuclear power plant that does not belong to the 75-nation Convention on Nuclear Safety, negotiated after the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl which contaminated wide areas and forced about 160,000 Ukrainians from their homes.

Inspectors from the IAEA visit the Bushehr plant occasionally to check the nuclear material kept there, but not to conduct safety inspections.

On Saturday, a smaller 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck southeast Iran, about 89 km (55 mi) southeast of Minab, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

(Additional reporting by Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Writing by Yara Bayoumy; Editing by Mark Potter)

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