Russia warns Ahmadinejad: if you start Bushehr, you may nuke Iran

01/31/2011 15:16

From Israel Insider

Iran's atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi boasted on January 29 that the Bushehr nuclear power plant would be connected to the national grid on April 9. He "forgot" that Tehran had promised to fully activate its first nuclear reactor last Tuesday, January 25. DEBKAfile's intelligence and Moscow sources reveal that on that day, Iran's hand on the power switch was held back at the last minute by Sergei Kiriyenko, chief of the Russian national nuclear energy commission which oversaw the reactor's construction. He rushed to warn Tehran that due to the continuing impact of Stuxnet, switching on the reactor could trigger a nuclear explosion that could cost a million Iranian lives and devastate neighboring populations. He complained to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that the Iranian nuclear and engineering staff were ignoring the presence of the worm and must be stopped.

Kiriyenko told the Iranian president that Russian engineers employed at the reactor had notified Moscow that Stuxnet was again attacking the Bushehr systems. There was no telling which systems had been infected, because a key feature of the virus is to cause the systems' screens to show they are working normally when in fact they have been fatally affected. Activating the reactor in these circumstances could trigger an explosion far more powerful than the disaster at the Russian reactor at Chernobyl, Ukraine in April 1986, which released 400 times more radioactive material than the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

The impression the Russian chief had gained from his staff at Bushehr, DEBKAfile reported, was that the Iranian teams had been ordered to activate the reactor at any price to "prove" that the Islamic Republic had beaten Stuxnet, regardless of the security risk. The consequences of ignoring this fearful hazard, said Kiriyenko, were unthinkable and would destroy the revolutionary Islamic regime in Tehran in their wake. Kirienko reportedly began worrying when he heard the Iranian nuclear commission's spokesman Hamid Khadem-Qaemi claim on Jan. 17 that Bushehr had not been affected by Stuxnet. Our Iranian sources report that in the wake of the Russian official's visit, Ahmadinejad ordered the reactor to stay shut down.

The day after Bushehr was to be activated, Jan. 26, Moscow took the unusual step of demanding a NATO investigation into last year's computer attack on the Russian-built nuclear reactor in Iran. Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said: "This virus, which is very toxic, very dangerous, could have very serious implications," he said, describing the virus's impact as being like "explosive mines" which "could lead to a new Chernobyl," he said. 

The report, drawn up by a nation closely monitoring Iran's nuclear program and obtained by The Associated Press, said such conclusions were premature and based on the "casual assessment" of Russian and Iran scientists at Bushehr. With control systems disabled by the virus, the reactor would have the force of a "small nuclear bomb," it said. "The minimum possible damage would be a meltdown of the reactor," it says. "However, external damage and massive environmental destruction could also occur ... similar to the Chernobyl disaster."

While some experts interviewed by AP said that the danger of a nuclear explosion were not likely, or had passed, it appears that Tehran and Russia are currently not willing to take their chances. The citizens of Iran may also be inclined to concur in that assessment.

 

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