Outdated Armenian nuclear plant a regional threat

Azerbaijan Materials 19 October 2011 18:25 (UTC +04:00)
The Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant is located in a seismically active zone and a danger not only to Turkey, but other South Caucasus countries, experts report
Outdated Armenian nuclear plant a regional threat

Azerbaijan, Baku, Oct. 19 / Trend , E.Tariverdiyeva /

The Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant is located in a seismically active zone and a danger not only to Turkey, but other South Caucasus countries, experts report.

A call from the Turkish Energy minister Taner Yildizi in the Timeturk newspaper said the nuclear power plant should be shut down immediately in view of the danger to the whole region.

Mr. Yildiz said there are 25 nuclear power plants in the world, many over 40 years old and should be closed.

Armenia plans to build a stronger plant rather than the Metsamor NPP. It is believed the project will cost $ 1 billion. The life of the Metsamor NPP built in 1970 expired in 2010, but Armenia and the IAEA experts have agreed to prolong its operation until 2016.

After the devastating Spitak earthquake the activity of this plant had been suspended, but in 1995, despite international protests, the work of the station was reactivated and in addition, the second reactor was launched.

Given the large number of minor earthquakes in the past 10 years in this area, as well as the intensification of seismic processes indicated by seismologist researches, in the case of a big accident taking place at Metsamor, not only Armenia, but also all countries in the Southern Caucasus and the Middle East would be seriously affected.

Azerbaijan may give consent for construction of a new nuclear reactor in Armenia, the director of the Radiation Problems Institute of Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS) Adil Garibov told Trend recently.

Mr Garibov said "At the annual meeting of the IAEA, ANAS President Mahmud Kerimov said that as Armenia is weak from an economic point of view, it may not to be able to contain the reactor with a capacity of 1,000 MW. So, this issue should now be on the focus of international attention."

Georgian Green Party Leader Giorgi Gachechiladze said this plant is' outdated both technologically and morally and for this reason the risk of an accident is pretty high'.

He said: "We have been demanding the closure of the Metsamor NPP since the Spitak earthquake and EU representatives have also expressed fears. The EU even offered to pay compensation for the closure of Armenia's Metsamor NPP and Yerevan seemed to agree.

"However after the Russian RAO Unified Energy System bought the Armenian energy distribution grid, all talks on this issue have been blocked".

He went on to stress that the frequent earthquakes can lead to an accident at the Metsamor NPP and in case of a radiation leak, the first countries to be hit will be those bordering with Armenia, namely Turkey and Georgia.

"The station is located in the highlands and the accident may lead to lack of water for emergency core cooling system," Gachechiladze said, noting that during the NPP's activities it faced two serious accidents, while one of them burned about 400 km of cables.

Most Georgian citizens regard the Metsamor NPP as a threat to their security. An opinion poll conducted by the Palita nedeli weekly shows that 86.3 per cent of 417 respondents believe that the Armenian NPP is a threat to Georgia. Armenian environmentalists share this view.

"It's a crime to build a new nuclear power station in Metsamor," Hakob Sanasaryan, president of the Greens Union of Armenia, told EurasiaNet.org.

"A nuclear power station cannot be constructed near water and agricultural systems, in seismic zones, or in densely populated areas."

Beyond ecological concerns, Slavik Sargsyan, the chairman of the All-Armenian Association of Power Specialists, expressed concern about a lack of qualified technicians in Armenia to operate the plant.

He told Eurasianet.org: "Russia will support us of course, but the situation with nuclear power specialists in our energy sector is very difficult."

N. Kirtskhalia (Tbilisi) contributed to the article.