The Middle-East’s Nuclear Ambitions and Understanding the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES)

Nuclear energy is a highly controversial topic. The awesome power of this energy source is a god-send for the world’s energy needs, but its potential use in weaponry and its problematic radioactive waste poses a massive threat.

Green activists have made their concerns known for decades, and the US and EU are working day and night to prevent the theocratic system in Iran from developing an advanced nuclear program.

We have seen in the past few years, regional and Arab governments that are highly unstable and most incapable of properly wielding nuclear capabilities, seek to establish their own atomic agendas. Simultaneously, we watch as the traditional superpowers and their advanced technology and policies, struggle to avoid a nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan.

Japan is the world’s #3 economy, and arguably the forerunner when it comes to cutting-edge technology. The land of the eternal sun is used to the worst types of natural disasters, that include recurring earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes and of course the term they coined, tsunamis. Japan’s preparedness cannot be denied, and the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and 10-meter-high Tsunami could’ve potentially killed hundreds of thousands if not millions of Japanese. The warning systems, engineering, technology and training exponentially reduced that number to 1600 as of March 14, 2011.

Alleged Syrian Nuclear Site Bombed by the IDF in 2007

Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have all expressed interest in developing a nuclear program. Israel already has an arsenal similar to that of France’s, though it will not confirm its existence. The bottom line is that these countries are many millennia behind Japan in terms of government, democracy, stability and technology. Perhaps the most fit, for better or for worse, is Israel.

Imagine an Assad regime with a stockpile of nuclear warheads, or the Saudi monarch having the launch codes of ballistic missiles armed with radioactive payloads. Imagine the recently deposed Hosni Mubarak, leaving behind a battery of nuclear missiles amid the chaos and uncertainty that has succeeded him. Yes, it is very unsettling that these corrupt and/or religiously-motivated nations and regimes might one day possess nuclear capabilities.

Unfortunately, instead of investing in these nations’ natural renewable resources, most prominent of which is solar power in these mostly desert-nations, these regimes are striking deals with Russia and China to begin developing their multi-billion dollar “peaceful” nuclear programs.

Allow us for a minute to imagine that all these countries spontaneously become secular, democratic and stable and that they will only use nuclear energy peacefully. The threat of contamination or accidents far outweighs the potential benefits. More importantly, the nuclear pros are humbled by the advantages of solar or wind farms in these desert regions.

The threat of terrorism is also ever-present, with the area a being breeding ground of Muslim extremism, a nuclear facility might be someone’s perfect ticket to Nirvana. And, again, Japan, the world’s 3rd largest economy, is struggling to keep its nuclear power plants affected by the tsunami and 9.0 magnitude earthquake. What chance does the KSA or Egypt stand in containing nuclear fallout or managing nuclear waste? (whose sale to poorer nations has been outlawed by the UN thanks to the Lebanese Forces burial of nuclear and chemical hazardous materials in Lebanon’s mountainous regions produced by Italian and German companies) What would happen if Al Qaeda or Fateh el Islam extremist got hold of such hazardous radioactive material?

The prospects are terrifying on several aspects, yet it has had no real attention by the Arab people. As the ISIS photos of rebuilt nuclear Syrian sites emerge, and the KSA signing a nuclear deal with France last month, it is evident that the region’s atomic ambitions have not faded. Of course, Iran and Israel’s programs also raise alarm.

The question is, should the world’s most volatile region possess the ability to split atoms? The answer is definitely not. Instead, the existing nuclear powers should disarm further, and begin to rely less on nuclear power plants instead of increasing existing plants, as US President Barack Obama is seeking to.

In light of this, our thoughts go out to the Japanese people, who are facing a deadly troika of earth tremors, tsunami waves and now threat of a nuclear meltdown.

The IAEA has classified the leakage in Fukushima as a level 4 out of 7. This is according to the INES system.

From wikipedia: “The scale is intended to be logarithmic, similar to the Richter scale¬†that is used to describe the comparative magnitude of earthquakes. Each increasing level represents an accident approximately ten times more severe than the previous level.”

Here are some examples of already-classified incidents and accidents.

Anyone care to venture what level it will be in our region? I vouch for a solid 6 or 7 =)


  1. says

    although i completely agree that neither Saudi arabia nor Syria nor Egypt are ready for nuclear power … nor will they be in the near future. so i hope this Japan dilemma makes a halt on all these plans..
    But your argument that they shouldn’t have such power because “breeding ground of Muslim extremism,” ? really? that’s something reuters would write.. (that’s not a compliment!!)

    The Middle east institutions are very volatile, how many kitchens do you know are monitored like they should! how many hospitals are monitored? salons? schools? Buses?! everything is left to chance…
    I’d love to see them leaving nuclear power to chance!!

  2. says

    I guess Fukushima is also going up to a 6 level, after the newly overheating reactors and the prospect of leakage in the containing vessels.
    The issue of the ME and nuclear energy is truly beyond containment. Im not sure whether it is actually an issue of terrorism or that of the instability of the ruling systems. I mean terrorism acts can take place in any foreign nuclear sites too. The real question is how much arab governments are able to manage the political abuse of nuclear energy and its consequential hazard.
    Good questions n post Gino.

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