Recently, the text of the draft agreement to be signed between Armenia and the EU has been published, which has triggered a heated discussion (also criticism).
Out of 386 points of the agreement, only one that refers to Metsamor nuclear power plant was in the spotlight. Two of Russian news outlets, Sputnik and Regnum, were prominent in their high-profile statements on the issue.
“The agreement with the EU – a threat to Armenia’s security. Will Yerevan be deprived of nuclear power plant?” or ” Noise around the nuclear power plant. Armenia will not endure new dark and cold years”. Armenian service of the Sputnik agency issued statements with such titles. And Regnum agency announced that by forcing to close Metsamor NPP, the EU makes Armenia be hostage in the hands of Turkey and Azerbaijan.
The necessity of closing Armenian nuclear power plant was discussed on October 2, 2008. At that time newly elected president Serzh Sargsyan announced the launch of construction of a new nuclear power plant speaking from the rostrum of National Assembly.
After the accident at the Japanese Fukushima-1 nuclear plant in 2011, the government announced that the Metsamor NPP will be operational until 2016.
9.5 years passed from the time Serge Sargsyan made his promise, but Armenia does not have a new nuclear power plant, and exploitation of the 2nd power unit at the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant, which is under Russian management and was put into operation in 1980, was decided to extend until 2026.
Obviously, no mechanism can operate forever, Metsamor nuclear power plant will sooner or later be shut down, and at some point its exploitation will be considered as risky (what is unacceptable).
What did the press keep silent about?
At the same time it is mentioned in the agreement provision on the closure of nuclear power plant that a roadmap or action plan is required to substitute Metsamor NPP with new capacities needed to ensure RA energy security and sustainable development. In other words, the issue of “dark and cold years”, as Sputnik suggests, is out of question.
At the same time, the agreement does not exclude in any way that Armenia can build a new nuclear power plant. On the contrary, under the agreement, the European side undertakes to support nuclear security in Armenia. That is to say, in case of construction of a new nuclear power plant Armenia will enjoy EU support on security issues.
Moreover, Armenia-EU agreement does not mention any deadlines for closure. It is just mentioned that the parties will cooperate to carry out the process safely. In other words, the European side, ignoring the deadline for closure, just notes that it will help Armenia to implement safely the most expensive and costly process of nuclear power plant decommissioning.
The Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant has two power units built in 1960-70 designed on the basis of seismic resistant reactors of VVER-440/270 type. The first power unit was put into operation on December 22, 1976, and the second – on January 5, 1980. At present, the first power unit de facto is not operated, the second power unit provides 40% of the electricity consumed in the republic.
The power units of VVER-440 generation were also installed at the nuclear power plants of Novovoronezh (Russia), Kolsk (Russia), Kozloduy (Bulgaria), Greifswald (Germany) and Bogunits (Slovakia). Germany decommissioned them in 1990, Bulgaria in 2006, and Slovakia in 2008. In these three countries, nuclear power plants continued to operate, but of newer and safer type.
In Russia, one of two VVER-440/230 power units of nuclear power plant in Novovoronezh was shut down in 2016, the other will be shut down in 2017, and two of the similar units of the Kolsk plant will be shut down in 2018 and 2019.
That is to say, by 2019 Armenian NPP will probably become the only nuclear power plant where power units of this generation will still function. It’s detailed here.
It should also be noted that Metsamor NPP does not have a protective dome, what not only makes it be the most vulnerable to terrorist attacks, but also will make the effects of possible explosion of the reactor be even more severe.