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Iran nuclear scheme raises temperatures in Washington.

Russia and Iran are discussing a project for a nuclear-powered desalination plant at the Gulf port of Bushehr. In addition to water, the scheme - the first of its kind outside the ex-Soviet Union - seems certain to generate political heat.

THE DESALINATION PLANT project is part of the Russian-Iranian nuclear collaboration agreement reached in February which also provides for Russian help in the completion of a 1,200 MW power station at Bushehr, the establishment of an 880 MW station, also at Bushehr, and the provision of research and reactors to Iranian universities, writes Alan George.

The accord has been strongly attacked by Washington, which insists the project will help Tehran to develop nuclear weapons. President Clinton cited Iran's nuclear ambitions as one reason for the economic embargo he imposed on Iran earlier this year.

The Bushehr nuclear desalination plant will be either on land or on a ship offshore. Under discussion is the APWS-40 facility, which is produced by the Russian concern OKBM Mechanical Engineering. The 0.7 MW plant has two desalination units, each with a 20,000 cubic metres per day capacity.

An OKBM-designed BN-350 reactor has powered a large desalination plant serving the city of Actau in Kazakhstan for 20 years but the Iranian facility will be the first outside the ex-Soviet Union.

OKBM's sales brochure for the APWS-40 facility stresses its safety features. `There is no radiation effect on population and environment during normal operations, it says, adding that the APWS-40 is `ecologically pure'.

Others are not so sure. Greenpeace spokeswoman Blair Palese described the Iranian plans as `just ludicrous, especially when there are so many other options'. Iran was rich in hydrocarbons and had no need to use such a complicated and potentially unsafe power source to fuel a desalination plant whose power requirements were, in any case low, she noted.

The US will not be the only country worried by Iran's plans. Iran's neighbours on the nearly land-locked Arabian Gulf are all likely to see the project as a potential environmental hazard.
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Publication:The Middle East
Date:Sep 1, 1995
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