On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake struck off the coast of Japan, triggering a tsunami. The earthquake shut down reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant, but the tsunami took emergency generators offline cutting off cooling system. As a result, three of the four reactors at Fukushima melted down releasing tremendous amounts of radiation, both into the air and into the ocean.

While Japanese engineers contained the radioactivity at great human and material cost, yesterday’s earthquake simply renewed the scare as it briefly took cooling systems offline.

Japan is not the only country whose reactors are vulnerable to earthquakes. Iran is as geologically active; there is not a region of Iran which has been spared devastating earthquakes in recorded history.

Simply put, Iran’s nuclear facilities—built to less rigorous standards than those in Japan—are a ticking time bomb. If an earthquake levels Bushehr, for example, causing a meltdown in Iran’s nuclear plant, the result would be contamination not only of the immediate city of 200,000, but prevailing winds would take the radiation cloud out into the Persian Gulf and over Bahrain and Qatar.

Could Fukushima happen in Iran? It’s not a matter of if, but when. And when it happens, the Iranian government will be far less likely to contain the fallout than was Japan.

How ironic it is then that Secretary of State John Kerry has sought to define his tenure in part in focusing on the environment, but could go down in history as the most disastrous secretary of state when it comes to the environment because he legitimized and enabled the expansion of an Iranian nuclear program in a region where the risk of nuclear energy far outweighs the cost.

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