Power Plant Plans: Experts discuss Metsamor shut down

Due to close in 10 years, the EU wants to buy NPP's early retirement
The Government of Armenia will allocate $7 million of next year’s budget toward decommissioning the republic’s nuclear power plant at Metsamor. The plans were announced Thursday by Minister of Energy Armen Movsisyan, following the second round of international discussions about the future of Metsamor.

The European Union has offered Armenia 100 million Euros to close the power plant as soon as possible, voicing safety concerns over having a nuclear station in an area prone to earthquake. (In any case, the plant “expires” by 2016.)

In response to EU demands to shut it down, Armenian officials have insisted that the Armenian NPP is safe and that terminating its operation would lead the country to “dark and cold” years. (See http://armenianow.com/?action=viewArticle&AID=1492&lng=arm)

“The European Union has offered us 100 million Euros to take the NPP out of operation, the rest will be realized by the power plant’s own means,” said the Minister in discussions devoted to systemizing works on raising the plant’s safety level.

The EU assistance here is grounded by its concerns that, built by Soviet project, the plant does not have protective concrete layers capable of hindering emissions into the atmosphere in case of accidents.

The first power-generating unit of the NPP was put into operation in 1976; the second one, in 1980. The plant was shut down in 1989, following the Spitak earthquake.

In six and a half years, in November 1995, the second block was reopened. Today it produces 40 percent of the country’s electricity supplies. However, experts think, the plant is a real threat to either Armenia, or the region.

Besides the EU demands, Armenia’s environmentalists have regularly been raising safety and ecological issues, saying that the plant, only 28 km from the center of Yerevan, is vulnerable to earthquakes and that stockpiling of radio-active fuel wastes can create problems that would take generations to solve.

NPP security-related and other questions were discussed at this second session with the participation of Nuclear Power International Agency and representatives from the USA, European Union, Russia, Great Britain and Czech Republic.

The reconsidered list of measures aimed at raising the plant security was on the session agenda. In the nearest future, the representatives of donor countries participating in the session have to suggest to what extend and in what ways they are ready to assist.

“Construction of a new power block is planned. To start the preliminary works Armenia has submitted a 100 million Euro (about $120 million) project to the EU for consideration,” stated Movsisyan, leaving out the details of the project specifics.