The List

Atomic Dogs

Fukushima wasn't the only nuclear accident waiting to happen. From Bulgaria to New York, here are five other nuclear power plants to keep an eye on.

Country: Bulgaria

Plant: Kozloduy

When the U.S. Department of Energy ranked the most dangerous nuclear power plants in the former Soviet bloc in a classified 1995 report, two of the reactors in Bulgaria's Kozloduy complex made the top 10. The risks posed by the plant's aging Soviet technology were compounded by Bulgaria's somewhat desperate circumstances: "Rolling blackouts, mostly during winter months, have plagued Bulgaria since 1984," the report authors wrote. "Often, for every three hours with electricity there is one hour without. This power shortage has resulted in severe demand-side pressure to operate Kozloduy whatever the risk."

The two iffiest reactors were shut down in 2004, and two of the remaining four were scheduled to be mothballed as a condition of Bulgaria's entrance into the European Union -- much to the discontent of Bulgarians. (Lithuania, whose Soviet-era reactors were also on the Energy Department's danger list, had to make similar concessions.) President Georgi Parvanov called for the Europeans to reconsider after the Russia-Ukraine natural gas dispute of early 2009 cut off Bulgaria's gas imports in the depth of winter, but to no avail. So instead of reopening the old reactors, Bulgaria is building newer -- and ostensibly safer -- ones at the facility with the help of Russian national atomic energy firm Rosatom; groundbreaking on the first is scheduled for September, and there are no post-Fukushima plans to reconsider construction of the plant.


Country: Turkey

Plant: Akkuyu

Turkey's position above the North Anatolian fault makes it one of the most seismically active countries in the world -- it has had 14 earthquakes with death tolls above 1,000 people in the past century. Not surprisingly, many Turks have therefore been wary of embracing nuclear power. A plan by a Russian energy consortium to build a plant in Akkuyu, near the Mediterranean coastal port of Mersin, was shelved in 2000 following a public outcry. Another proposed Russian-built plant at that site, plus a second on the Black Sea coast, were scuttled in 2009, this time over concerns about Turkey's increasing energy dependency on Russia.

But it seems that the fourth time's a charm: As part of a wide-ranging energy deal last year, Turkey and Russia inked a deal for a subsidiary of Rosatom to build a plant in Akkuyu. In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reaffirmed their enthusiasm for the project, despite long-running local protests and the fact that, as a Turkish energy expert told the New York Times last year, the reactor model tentatively slated for use in the project hasn't been approved by European authorities.


Country: Armenia

Plant: Metsamor

Armenia's flagship nuclear plant, which supplies 40 percent of the country's power, is getting on in years. Situated not far from the 1.1 million inhabitants of Armenia's capital city of Yerevan, it features a 1980-built reactor model of midcentury Soviet design -- the same used at Bulgaria's Kozloduy facility -- that lacks some crucial safety features found in modern nuclear plants; the European Union has described Metsamor as the "oldest and least reliable" of the 66 such reactors in existence.

Metsamor was shut down in 1989 over safety concerns following an earthquake, and then reopened in the mid-1990s. Its safety has been a bone of contention between European and American authorities, who give Armenia aid money and are concerned about the plant's viability, and Armenian leaders, who insist the plant is perfectly fine. Metsamor has been slated for closure for years, but officials say that construction delays and financing issues with its replacement -- a newer, safer Russian model -- mean that probably won't happen until 2017.

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Country: United States

Plant: Indian Point

In August, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission calculated the odds of the United States' 104 nuclear power plants being critically damaged by an earthquake. The riskiest? The No. 3 reactor at the Indian Point plant in New York's Westchester County, just 24 miles outside Manhattan. While other plants -- most notably California's Diablo Canyon Power Plant and San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station -- stand a far better chance of a good shake, they were built to withstand it. Indian Point wasn't.

The odds of the No. 3 reactor's core being damaged by an earthquake in any given year, MSNBC reports, are 1 in 10,000, about seven times the national average. (By comparison, an American's annual chance of dying in a car accident is about 1 in 6,600.) Those odds aren't long enough for New York politicians, who are a little more squeamish about this kind of thing than their counterparts in Yerevan and Sofia. "I've had concerns about Indian Point for a long time," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said this week. "I understand the power and the benefit. I also understand the risk. … But this is new information that we're going to pursue."

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Country: Japan

Plant: Shika

In 1999, a mishap during a routine inspection of a reactor at the Shika Nuclear Power Plant, in a town of about 15,000 people in Japan's Ishikawa prefecture, exposed the plant to the risk of an uncontrolled chain reaction for 15 minutes. Nothing happened, but as they say, the coverup was worse than the crime: Plant managers hid records of the incident until 2007, when the Japanese government conducted a wholesale review of the country's nuclear power industry, discovered what had happened, and ordered Shika to be temporarily shut down.

It was the second shutdown at the plant in as many years: In 2006, a court had ordered the plant shuttered after locals sued over concerns that Shika's construction wouldn't withstand earthquakes of a magnitude that could reasonably be expected in the area -- only to be overruled by Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

The problems at Shika are part of a broader pattern of weak safety oversight in the Japanese nuclear industry that has come sharply into focus since the Fukushima disaster began. As one Japanese seismologist told the Guardian on March 12, most first-generation Japanese nuclear plants were built in an era of relatively low earthquake activity. Despite earthquake-related breakdowns at several plants in the mid-2000s, utility companies and nuclear regulators failed to grasp the potential catastrophes waiting beneath their feet.

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The List

Best of ArabLeaks

Just how much did these cables change the world?

Ever since those first cables from Tunis leaked on Dec. 7, 2010, informing the world that Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali's extended family was a "quasi-mafia" and that his son-in-law's "over the top" mansion housed not only an infinity pool but also a tiger who fed on "four chickens a day," WikiLeaks has been intimately bound up with the revolutions. Indeed, the Tunisian uprising began only 10 days later, and its shock waves have spread across the Arab world.

If it's too much of a leap to say that the cables gave rise to the protests, they certainly provided a lens through which the Arab public could, finally, get a candid glimpse as to how Washington saw their leaders: Omar Suleiman's brief tenure as vice president of Egypt was illuminated by a few cables discussing his toadying relationships with Israel, the CIA, and President Hosni Mubarak. And embattled Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's image in the Western world took on a lurid spin after the leak of an early cable about his "personal proclivities." Not only did WikiLeaks reveal his voluptuous Ukrainian nurse to the world, it encapsulated his decades of rule: "While it is tempting to dismiss his many eccentricities as signs of instability," read the cable, "Qadhafi is a complicated individual who has managed to stay in power for forty years through a skillful balancing of interests and realpolitik methods."

Now that the revolutions are entering their fourth month, however, with two governments overthrown and others tottering on the brink, are the WikiLeaks cables merely reporting from a world that doesn't exist anymore? Or can WikiLeaks still be read with an eye toward the new Arab future? Foreign Policy went back through the files to dig up the best of the Arab world WikiLeaks: the cables with impact on today's revolutions, and tomorrow's.

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Qaddafi Family Values

Months before a rebellion broke out across Libya on Feb. 25, the world was familiar with the peculiarities of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's inner circle. WikiLeaks cables from March 2009 detailed the Qaddafi family's squabbling, which pitted one son -- the erstwhile reformer Saif al-Islam -- against his brother Mutassim, the slick-suited, hard-line national security advisor. Meanwhile, Qaddafi's daughter was tasked with "monitoring the activities of ne'er-do-wells" of the family -- a task she did none too well, given the diplomatic fracas that followed the arrest of one of Qaddafi's sons  in Switzerland for beating up two staff members at a luxury hotel in Geneva. The release of another cable, which reported that Qaddafi "relies heavily" on a "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse, was also at least partially responsible for the U.S. ambassador to Libya being recalled to Washington.

While Qaddafi's public remarks often seem to suggest that he is living on a different planet, the colonel was quick to recognize that the upheaval in the Arab world threatened his four decade-long rule. In a Jan. 15 speech mourning the downfall of Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, he attacked WikiLeaks as "Kleenex" and even took on the Internet, calling it a tool "which any demented person, any drunk can get drunk and write in."


Egyptian Intrigue

Until Egyptian politics was turned on its head by the millions of protesters who demanded a change of the status quo, the chattering classes considered it a near certainty that President Hosni Mubarak would eventually be replaced by his son, Gamal, or his national security advisor Omar Suleiman. In the days when it seemed Mubarak was sure to cement a clean succession, WikiLeaks published a number of State Department cables detailing the palace intrigue in the succession struggle, including one that reported, "despite palpable public hostility to his succession, and potential stumbling blocks, the way forward for Gamal currently appears open." Today, however, with Gamal holed up with his father in Sharm el-Sheikh and under a government order that freezes his assets, that path is decisively closed.

Suleiman, whom Mubarak appointed vice president in an unsuccessful attempt to assuage protesters' anger in late January, also makes a number of notable WikiLeaks appearances. One cable referred to the former spy chief as Mubarak's "consigliere" -- a judgment that could go a long way to explaining why he was viewed with skepticism by the Egyptian people as an appropriate replacement for Mubarak.


Al Jazeera's Missteps

Al Jazeera earned glowing praise across the Arab world -- even from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- for its 24/7 coverage of the Middle East uprisings. But the WikiLeaked cables suggest that U.S. diplomats don't believe the network is always the courageous and objective source of news that it claims to be. The cables reported that the Qatari government, which owns Al Jazeera, has been using the station as "a bargaining tool"  in its diplomacy with foreign countries.

The cable noted that al Jazeera's increasingly favorable coverage of Saudi Arabia had greased the wheels of Qatari-Saudi reconciliation and suggested that the network's coverage of the United States should be included as part of U.S. diplomats' discussions with Qatari officials.


Tunisian Excesses

The regime of Tunisian President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, which was the first domino to fall in the Middle East, was the subject of some particularly damning revelations in the WikiLeaks cables. U.S. diplomats described the Ben Ali clique as "The Family" who ran Tunisia for its own personal enrichment. The cables also revealed that former first lady Leila Trabelsi, who became a hated symbol of the regime's greed, made a hefty profit off the sale of a private school.

This material was so damning that it inspired TuniLeaks, a spinoff website solely dedicated to the cables from Tunisia. It was evident that Tunisians took the message to heart: After the Ben Ali family fled to Saudi Arabia, looters targeted the homes of Trabelsi's families as symbols of the ancien régime's corruption.


Mixed Signals from Tehran

The WikiLeaks cables revealed the true extent of the Gulf Arab regimes' antipathy for Iran, most famously with Saudi King Abdullah's admonition that the United States should "cut off the head of the snake" in Tehran. But the cables also revealed no small amount of eye-rolling in U.S. officialdom about Arab bravado toward their Persian rival. The Saudis always want to "fight the Iranians to the last American," U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates was reported to have said in February 2010.

A number of other cables describe U.S. officials' attempts to grapple with the mixed signals coming out of the Islamic Republic. "GOOD LUCK FIGURING OUT WHO IS IN CHARGE IN TEHRAN," read the paragraph heading of one cable, while another warned simply, "BRACE FOR UNCERTAINTY."


Yemen's Double Game

President Ali Abdullah Saleh has had his hands full trying to tamp down multiple revolts across this impoverished country, and protests in Sanaa are now occurring on a regular basis. The WikiLeaks cables revealed that Saleh had been playing a double game with the U.S. military, using weapons that the United States had given him to fight al Qaeda to combat a purely domestic insurgency. Despite Saleh's promises to Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. ambassador reported that Yemen's counterterrorism unit "has been unable to go after genuine terrorist targets like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) while it has been tied down in Sa'ada," the northern province at the center of the other revolt.

The WikiLeaks cables provide further evidence of Saleh's long-standing effort to reap the benefits of U.S. support, while avoiding the perception among his population that he is an American stooge. On March 2, he was forced to issue an apology to the Obama administration after delivering a speech claiming that "an operations room in Tel Aviv" run by the White House was trying to destabilize the Arab world. As this diplomatic snafu attests, Saleh's balancing act is getting more difficult every day.

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