By Rashid Shirinov
Armenia’s outdated Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), one of the most dangerous industrial facilities in the world, continues to threaten South Caucasus and the wider reagion.
The plant began to operate in 1976. After the devastating earthquake in Spitak town in 1988, it was closed down, but resumed its operation in 1995 despite international protests. The license for the exploitation of the plant expired on September 1, 2016, but the Armenian government decided to prolong the date of exploitation for 10 more years.
Environmentalists have long been concerned that the Armenian authorities refuse to close the outdated Metsamor NPP, any catastrophe at which could kill thousands in Armenia itself, and the whole region.
“The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.S. and other western states have already objected to the reopening of the Metsamor NPP. Washington believes the design of the 407-megawatt Metsamor reactor is one of the world’s most dangerous,” Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan, Pakistani expert on Central Asia and Azerbaijan, wrote in his article in Election Times newspaper.
The expert noted that by any international standard of nuclear safety, the continued operation of the Metsamor NPP is a big risk for the region and the world.
Several years ago, the EU labeled the Metsamor NPP as a danger to the entire region. In the near past, the EU offered aid to Armenia but the country did not accept the offer of a 200 million euro loan to finance Metsamor’s shutdown.
Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan noted that to protect their people the regional countries - Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Georgia have repeatedly urged Armenia to close the outdated Metsamor NPP immediately. However, Armenia still does not attach any particular importance to nuclear safety, which is a gross violation of the protocols of IAEA too.
Besides, the findings show that the Metsamor NPP was built in a nine-point seismic zone, while its reactor’s seismic resistance is designed for earthquakes with eight-point magnitude. Therefore, the NPP will not survive in case of an earthquake forcing nine points.
Given high seismic activity in the region, if a serious accident happens at the Metsamor NPP, not only Armenia, but also all the countries of the South Caucasus and Middle East regions would be badly affected in terms of severe health issues, drastic decrease in human fertility, lessening of agricultural productivity, polluted waters and seas and other problems, the article noted.
“Due to irresponsible attitude of Armenia today, all the countries in the region, including Iran, Turkey, Georgia, Russia and Azerbaijan are exposed to the threat of suffering the same fate of the Chernobyl and Fukushima NPPs,” the expert stressed. “Rather than shut down an old Metsamor nuclear power plant, which is located in a seismic zone, the Armenian government decided to extend its service life for a few more years.”
Thus, the Armenian government puts the whole region at risk by its irresponsible attitude to the problem. The international community should join forces to make Armenia to reckon with the interests of its neighbors and to provide security of their population.