Serzh Sargsyan: No talk of closing the nuke station until Armenia blockade lifted

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan attending the Nuclear Security Council in Seoul, South Korea, made a speech on Tuesday, stressing that Armenia is making concrete efforts to ensure the control over nuclear security.

He also reassured the world community that Armenia fully safeguards the safe operation of its Soviet-built nuclear reactor at the Metsamor plant, whose life span ends in 2016.

Earlier, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev took advantage of his participation in the nuclear summit to once again call for the closure of the Armenian nuclear power plant. Speaking there on March 27 he said that the station in Metsamor that was built in 1976 was outdated, did not meet the modern safety standards and is located in a seismic zone. In his opinion, all this has turned it into a source of threat.

In response, Sargsyan called it “disinformation” and said he wasn’t by what Aliyev had said as “spreading slander about Armenia has long become a manner of action in Azerbaijan.” He stressed that the full compliance of the Armenian nuclear power plant with the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency was confirmed by this international nuclear watchdog body’s mission last year.

Azerbaijan and Turkey speculate on the issue of the Armenian nuclear station not only because it may represent an environmental hazard. The closure of the facility that generates the bulk of Armenia’s energy appears to be part of these allied countries’ strategy for a complete transport and energy blockade of Armenia. Turkey and Azerbaijan hold their border with Armenia closed, which significantly reduces the landlocked country’s transport and energy potential. However, thanks to the nuclear power plant, Armenia not only can provide itself with energy, but also export it. This is against the plans of Turkey and Azerbaijan, which are trying to lobby for the closure of the Metsamor station.

Armenia has already once managed to extend the term of operation of its nuclear reactor, which is designed for 30 years. But until 2016 the Armenian leadership will have to try to prolong the life of the plant further in order to find investors for the construction of a new nuclear reactor. President Sargsyan has already stated that the currently operated reactor will be shut down only when the new one is put into operation.

The main argument of Armenia in constructing a new nuclear power plant is that in conditions of a total blockade Armenia has no other sources of energy. At the summit in Seoul Sargsyan called for addressing nuclear safety issues in a complex with related problems and not to turn energy resources into political capital. In fact, Sargsyan set a condition: there can be no talk about the Armenian nuclear power plant’s closure until the blockade of the country is lifted.

“Two out of Armenia’s four neighbors, in blatant violation of international norms, have been blockading our country for the last twenty years, among other things leaving us no alternatives in achieving energy independence,” President Sargsyan said.

The summit in Seoul adopted a final communiqué, in which there is no mention of the closure of obsolete plants. The two-day nuclear summit attended by the leaders of more than 50 nations, including the United States, Russia and China, ended on March 27, with the participants committing themselves to taking new and more serious measures to prevent the threat of nuclear terrorism.