President Ahmadinejad praising the nuclear program the day of the quake. Image: Islamic Republic News Agency
The earthquake that shook most of Iran earlier today won’t slow down its leaders from pursuing its nuclear ambitions. The quake registered a 6.3 on the Richter scale, and has so far left thirty dead and 800 injured. Its epicenter was just 62 miles (100 km) from Bushehr, the city home to Iran’s nuclear reactors.
Yet in a press conference held in honor of Nuclear Technology Day—on which the earthquake unfortunately coincided—Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “stressed the need for accelerating the pace of Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities,” according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.
He added that there would be no halt to the country’s atomic program. Ahmadinejad said that Iran has already "gone nuclear," and that no amount of resistance from the United States or the West will slow them down.
He then ordered Iranian nuclear officials to "speedily launch five new nuclear reactors," and announced the construction of two uranium mines and a yellow cake production plant. The International Business Times reports that the facility, outside the city of Yazd, will produce 60 tons of yellow cake, or uranium oxide, per year.
Iranian officials told the UN nuclear agency that the earthquake did no damage to the reactors, and the Russian company that built the plant said that personnel were continuing to operate the plant as usual. Residents of Bushehr told Reuters that the quake shook their homes, but little damage has been reported.
The earthquake is a reminder that international tensions aren't the only dangers of Iran pursuing nuclear technology, even if the ultimate aim is, as it claims, merely to run nuclear power plants: Iran is one of the most seismically active nations in the world, as it sits atop a tangle of major fault lines that cover 90% of the country.
As a result, the Encyclopedia Iranica notes that there have been over 126,000 deaths from earthquakes over the last 100 years. In 1990, for instance, the Manji-Rudbar earthquake left 40,000 dead and half a million people homeless. It is, in other words, one of the worst possible places to built volatile nuclear power plants. Yet Iran's leadership remains undeterred.
Iran is "a nuclear country," Ahmadinejad said, and claimed that nothing can stop its progress.