Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Nuclear Energy or People’s Life?

Ali Afshari, Rooz Online:
The earthquake in Iran’s Lorestan province on the last day of March 2006 and the death of a large number of deprived people in the region brings up a serious question for Iranians: should building better and stronger (earthquake-proof) buildings in the country be Iran’s “national priority” or pursuing nuclear energy? Is the current slogan and rhetoric advanced by the government media, “nuclear energy is our absolute right" a true reflection of the needs of the people? READ MORE

The core of any country’s national interest is its well being and living conditions. Reason dictates that the resources of a country should be first and foremost used to promote and advance this national interest, i.e. its survival needs. So while the peril of destruction and ruin through earthquake threaten millions of lives in different parts of this seismic-risk land, how can one justify utilizing unlimited national resources in unclear nuclear projects?

In oppressive governments run by hardline regimes military and defense issues take priority over the well-being of their people. The rulers of these regimes prefer to protect their own power and survival, and assume that they can neutralize threats by strengthening their defense and military power. It is ironic that the very people who at one time criticized Iran’s ancient regime and the Shah for engaging in the acquisition of more weapons at the expense of people’s well-being are now incapable of doing the least to defend this nation.

Based on official government statistics last year alone 396 earthquakes were recorded in Iran which shook many towns and villages across the country, causing 612 deaths. Based on documented historic statistics every two years there is one earthquake with an intensity of at least level 6 on the Richter scale, while every ten years there is one higher than a scale-7 earthquake in Iran. Seventy percent of lives lost in Iran are due to earthquakes. Based on report released by United Nations Development Program Office in Tehran, an average of 1,074 out of 1 million Iranians annually lose their lives in earthquakes in Iran.

Iran's plateau is situated on an earthquake fault. And while it is true that science has not yet achieved the status of being able to accurately predict the time and exact location of the next earthquake, constructing better earthquake buildings is not impossible or a new science either. And this is what should be Iran’s national strategy, if its rulers honestly desire to improve the lives of the people.

In that light, developing nuclear technology and secretly investing billion of dollars and hiding the details from the public is not a national priority for this country. Legitimacy and legality in the acquisition of nuclear technology requires transparency and providing the public with detailed programs. In Iran’s case, the public learned of the vast facilities and investments only after Iran’s nuclear programs and policies were referred to the International Atomic Energy Agency as a complaint by members of the international community. There never was –or is even today - any public debate or even knowledge of the vast engagement of governments in Iran in the nuclear sphere.

The current government of president Ahmadinejad repeatedly airs the claim that it is a “caring” government and that is first and foremost priority is to advance the needs and interests of the deprived masses of Iran. But in reality and in practice, it is portraying its self-driven interest to acquire nuclear know-how into as a “divine” issue and calls nuclear energy even more vital for the Iranian nation than its daily bread!