Shaking felt at Iran’s sole nuclear reactor

Earthquake

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck Iran’s southwest coast at a shallow depth of 10km, 55 miles southeast of Bandar Bushehr, on Tuesday according to AIR Worldwide. The death toll has risen to 37 and Iran has announced three days of mourning.

The main shock, which was followed by six aftershocks, was felt across the region in other Gulf countries, including Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. Workers in Qatar were reported to have been evacuated from high-rise buildings as a precautionary measure.

Notably, shaking was felt at Iran’s sole nuclear power station, about 18 km (11 miles) south of Bandar Bushehr, but operations were reported to be unaffected. The Russian company that built the nuclear reactor claims that the situation is normal there: employees continue to work and radiation is within normal levels.

Two helicopters were sent to survey the damage in the affected area. Traditional residential structures in Iran are typically of adobe construction, which exhibits very poor seismic performance. Significant structural damage and collapse is possible under strong ground shaking. In 2006, the M6.6 Bam, Iran earthquake destroyed some 50,000 homes.

According to AIR, the seismotectonics of southern Iran are dominated by the convergence between Arabian and Eurasian plates. The M6.3 earthquake that struck southern Iran today occurred as a result of northeast-southwest oriented thrust-type motion in the shallow crust of the Arabian plate. Today’s event was an intraplate event, occurring almost 300 km south of the main plate boundary, but it will be difficult to identify the fault that caused it, as this event likely did not break the surface.