Experts: Armenian nuke station risk “acceptable”

Experts: Armenian nuke station risk “acceptable”


According to Head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ad hoc Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) for Armenia Gabor Vamos, the level of risk at the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant is acceptable and there are technical possibilities to extend the terms of the facility’s operation. But he said at a press conference in Yerevan on Thursday that the station has not yet made such an initiative.

IAEA experts arrived in Armenia in mid-May to find out on the spot how safety of the Metsamor nuclear power plant is organized. In 18 months IAEA experts will conduct a second monitor, said the director of the Metsamor NPP Gagik Markosyan.

After the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March and the accident at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant caused by the natural calamity the IAEA carries out stress tests at all nuclear power plants around the world. The Armenian NPP is the first on the list.

The Metsamor facility is the only nuclear power plant in the region. None of Armenia’s neighbors – Azerbaijan, Georgia, or Turkey – have nuclear stations and the newly-built Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran has not yet been put into full operation.

The OSART commission acting under the auspices of the IAEA cited a number of examples of good practice at the Armenian station, as well as voiced a number of recommendations to improve this practice. The group, consisting of 11 experts from eight countries, conducted monitoring in the following areas – state of the equipment, the process of work. Vamos noted that during the inspection 16 recommendations and 14 suggestions on how to improve the nuclear power plant’s work were made to the Armenian side.

The final OSART report on the results of the work done will be submitted to the Government of Armenia within three months.

Armenia is in the highest, third zone of seismic risk, and in this connection Turkey and Azerbaijan have repeatedly demanded that the Metsamor nuclear station be closed. But the facility produces energy not only for Armenia’s domestic consumption but also for export, and Armenia cannot abandon its use. Moreover, the country is beginning the construction of a new reactor.

A few days ago Germany renounced the use of nuclear energy and pledged to shut down all nuclear power plants by 2022. Seven nuclear reactors in Germany built before 1980 were suspended in Germany in March amid the news of the nuclear catastrophe coming from earthquake-hit Japan. Safety inspections began at all 17 nuclear power plants operating in Germany. As a result, only four of them continued their operations.

Germany’s decision caused mixed reactions in the European Union. For example, France and the United Kingdom took Berlin’s policy in the field of nuclear energy as “hysterical”. In the European Commission they believe that Berlin will face financial problems because it will have to invest a huge amount of money into the development of alternative energy sources.

About 20 nuclear power plants operate in Russia. Most countries still believe that atomic energy must be developed, but with strengthened security.