Armenian Nuclear Plant Safe for the Region?



By Orkhan Karimzada – Vice Dean at Power Engineering Department, Azerbaijan State Oil and Industry University (ASOIU)

Have you ever asked yourself which is the most dangerous nuclear power plant in the world? Taking into account both design and location we can state surely this is Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant. This is one of the five remained first generation NPPs in the world which built without containment vessels.

The substantial difference between one in Armenia and other four in Russia is in Metsamor is located in earth’s most earthquake-prone terrain. For good reason, several years ago the European Union’s experts called the facility “a danger for the region”. Metsamor is a town in Armenia, 36 km away from the capital Yerevan, borders with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Turkey.

After a destructive earthquake in Spitak in 1988, the requirements for closing of Metsamor nuclear power plant for safety reasons were amplified. So, the first block of station, on March 18, 1989, and the second on February 25, 1989 were closed. In the other hand war started with neighborhood Azerbaijan also affected the natural gas import to the country. With shut down the nuclear and thermal power plants the country went into “Dark Ages” for several years. During this period the electricity in Armenia was only for few hours a day. The media was quoting: “It was as cold in apartments as it was in the street”. At that time Armenian Government decided that restoring the operation of plant is the only “correct” decision as without providing electric power the country was weakened by recent war and was not able to restore economy, provide normal conditions for activity of citizens and reduce the menacing rates of emigration. The first block did not restore its work, but the second was restarted on October 26, 1995 when the strongest energy crisis and electricity reigned in the country. This was the first time in the history when shuttered nuclear power plant was reopened.

Restart of the Armenian NPP could not but cause a number of statements and comments of mainly ecological character at different levels. So, after the restart in 1995 of the second power unit of the Armenian NPP, the Turkish authorities started making statements for discrepancy of station regarding the requirements of ecological safety. In particular, the Turkish side focused attention on a close arrangement of the NPP to the Turkish border. In Turkish mass media information on the threat posed by the Armenian NPP for the health of Turkish residents in 16 km-zone was repeatedly published. In particular, it was mentioned about the increase in number of the citizens who started suffering from cancer, and also the increased number of new-born with obvious anomalies. For good reason, several years ago United States government called the Metsamor NPP “aging and dangerous”.

In the event of the accident, radioactive pollution and other aftereffects will entail a tremendous danger and risk for the Azerbaijan, Russian and entire Caspian and Black Sea region. According to the report of International Nuclear Power Agency (INPA), Armenia takes

the first place globally for illegal trade of nuclear and other radioactive materials, as for purchase of high-grade radioactive Uranium 238. It has to be specially emphasized this imposes great danger for occupied territories of Azerbaijan including Karabakh region and for the Southern Ossetia territory of Georgia. In addition, there are numerous arrests of the Armenian citizens nuclear trafficking in Georgia that is why it becomes obvious that power trafficking stems from Armenia directly with an aim of preparation of so called “Filthy Bomb”. Therefore, in case such weapon is received by international terror groups such as Al-Gaida and ISIS, risk of preparation and use of filthy bomb becomes stricter enough.

Nuclear risk coming from Armenia was raised in the meeting between Heydar Aliyev, deceased president of Azerbaijan and Mahammad al-Baradei, prime minister of IAEA in 2002. In July 2005, the IAEA delegation examined the main directions of development of power industry of Armenia, having recognized that it is necessary to consider replacement of the existing nuclear block with nuclear blocks of new generation as a preferable option of development of the national power supply system and exploitation of station was permitted until 2013. After this, the European Union also supported preservation of station in view of the fact that, it developed the resource and does not conform to requirements of ecological safety. Gans Vinkler, minister of foreign affairs of Austria at that time reminded in the meeting that, technologies and equipment used in NPP were expired and do not meet safety standards of Europe. But, Armenia did not pay attention for the requirement on suspension of activity of NPP by world society and at the beginning of 2015, it was declared by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources of Armenia that the new power unit of the Armenian NPP will be started in 2026. And this, in its turn, means that, region will live under threat for more than 10 years.

In accordance with data received from ecological and state organizations of Azerbaijan, nuclear pollution of the station is kept confidentially in the Garabakh, occupied territories of Azerbaijan. Moreover, such dangerous pollution, instead of being destructed in special constructed warehouses, are buried to soil, without conduction of any safety measures.

Mr. Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan Republic, delivered all these facts to the attention of international society during his speech in World Humanitarian Summit held in Istanbul in May of this year and emphasized that, Armenia should suspend its nuclear threat.

Nonetheless, it should be noted that the territory of Metsamor NPP was a seismic zone, located in the 11th-grade risk of earthquake. In this way, that is, not only expired system and technology, but probably natural disaster creates great danger. Armenian officials including the NPP should protect the population and should not create condition for nuclear tragedy. However, full positioning of Armenia in the corresponding context is interfered by a number of political factors. Generally, Metsamor NPP should be considered as great danger for the safety of millions of people in Asia, Nearest East and Europe and should be terminated.

Despite all these facts Armenia doesn’t want to return to the years without electricity and prefer to live with this danger and hope that nothing will happen. Most experts agreed that Armenian as an independent country can’t survive without Metsamor NPP.



(Orkhan Karimzada is Vice Dean at Power Engineering Department, Azerbaijan State Oil and Industry University (ASOIU) )

Views expressed are not of The London Post

London Post will welcome any response from the Armenian experts.