By Brien Southward
An earthquake, measured at 5 on the Richter scale by the US Geological Survey, was felt only 70km from Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, which is expected to go online on March 20. As of 9:46am CST on February 5, 2012, there has been no report yet of casualties or damage at the reactor facility. If damage did occur, it could have consequences for the future of Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The quake strikes as Iran is mired in a diplomatic crisis with the West over the ambitions of its nuclear energy program. Iran claims that their research is only for the sake of producing nuclear power to meet the growing energy needs of the developing country of some 74 million people, but numerous world leaders and global organizations such as the UN-affiliated International Atomic Energy Agency are concerned that they could be secretly using nuclear enrichment technology to develop nuclear weapons.
Construction on the Bushehr facility began in 1975 and it has remained the center of continuous diplomatic incidents ever since. The German firms building the plant were forced to stop after the United States imposed an embargo on shipments of high-technology supplies to Iran in response to the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the siege of the US embassy in Tehran, but in 1998 Russia signed a contract with Iran to finish the plant.
The most recent earthquake, measured at 5.5 on the Richter scale, was felt on January 19 near the city of Neyshabour in northeast Iran, injuring 100 people and causing some structural damage. Iran’s deadliest earthquake struck the northern provinces of Gilan and Zanjan, killing around 37,000 people and injuring more than 100,000.