The operation of the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant in Armenia is posing a big nuclear threat to Azerbaijan, Turkiye, Armenia, and the whole region, President Ilham Aliyev told a meeting with Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi.
What is behind the concern?
Actually, the threat coming from the Metsamor NPP to the region is huge and the facility is actually a ticking time bomb under the whole region ready for explosion at any time.
First, Metsamor is one of five NPPS built without primary containment structures which are not advisable to be built in earthquake-prone territories. However, Armenia is geographically situated in an earthquake-prone zone in view of previous ones that hit Armenia, one of them being the devastating Spitak quake, and the recent tremors that jolted Iran and Turkiye in proximity.
Second, the technology used when the NPP was built is now outdated and the plant has not gone under major repairs in view of Armenia's financial inability and minor assistance by Russia and the West cannot fully guarantee the seismic capacity.
The Council of European Union expressed its concern in the report in 2020 stating that Metsamur NPP “cannot be upgraded to fully meet internationally accepted nuclear safety standards,” and urged the Armenian government to close it as soon as possible.
The negotiation between Armenia and the EU over the closure of Metsamur NPP traces back 2000s. Armenia agreed to close the NPP in 2004 and in return the EU would supply Armenia with funds to close the plant and find substitute energy supplies. However, as usual, Armenia evaded closing it and the EU froze the grant.
We should note that not only the European Union, but also the former Soviet Union concerned about the NPP, and reluctant to take any further risk, closed it immediately after the Chornobyl catastrophe and earthquake in Spitak, Armenia. As it is known, the consequences of the Chornobyl NPP were so devastating that the Soviet Union stopped all work on NPPs that were under construction.
However, landlocked and poor in terms of natural resources, Armenia was isolated in the first years of its independence due to its aggressive expansionist foreign policy and Armenia was unable to meet its citizens’ basic needs.
Besides that, the life span of NPPs is about 40 years according to the “Nuclear Safety and Security in Europe” resolution. However, Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) was commissioned in 1976, 2 years before the Chornobyl NPP, and the same technology was used in the construction of this NPP.
Despite the fact that the life span of Metsamur NPP has expired, the Armenian government included the reactor in the country’s 2040 energy strategy and speaks about the further extension of the plant’s life.
It is not a secret that any catastrophe at Metsamur will not affect people in Armenia, but citizens of neighboring countries as well.
Despite all its danger, all countries including far-away EU countries crying about it, Iran never expressed its opinion about the issue. Because half of its electricity generated in the NPP is exported to Iran and there is talk about illegal trade of some nuclear materials originating from the Metsamor Plant between Armenia and Iran.
To recap, it can be said that since the life span of the plant has expired, and it locates in an earthquake-prone region, it can cause a catastrophe at any time. All people in the region, including Armenian citizens will suffer from possible catastrophes and Armenia will contribute to the safety of people in the region by closing it.