During a press conference on March 31, 2018, members of the “People’s Voice” public club Arman Ghukasyan and Tsovinar Kostanyan talked about the prospect of the closure of the Metsamor nuclear power plant and particularly stated that “EU officials are forcing Armenia to close the nuclear power plant”, which is allegedly aimed at undermining Armenia’s position in the region. However, comparing the existing facts and the previous and current statements of the officials it becomes clear that the pro-Russian experts are spreading disinformation.
Disinformation spread by “Experts”
Arman Ghukasyan referred to the following statement made on January 30, 2018 by Dirk Lorenz, Deputy Head of Division for the Eastern Partnership countries at European External Action Service: “We believe that the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant should shut down as soon as possible, as it is impossible to renovate it so as it fully complies with international security requirements.”
In response to Dirk Lorenz’s statement, Arman Ghukasyan said, “Closure of Armenian Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) imposed by EU is aimed at undermining Armenia’s positions in the region.”
Ghukasyan simply overlooked the statement of the Deputy Minister of Energy Infrastructure and Natural Resources Hayk Harutyunyan made at a briefing with journalists the same day in the same place, “I think none of us had the illusion that the operating unit would work forever.”
Whereas, the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant reactor was designed in the 1960s-70s and had no exact expiration date. It belongs to the Soviet-era VVER-440 light-water type of reactors. In Metsamor, in particular, the oldest version of this series, the VVER-440/230 seismic-stable modification has been deployed, and it received the name VVRE-440/270.
Germany decommissioned VVER-440/230 reactors in 1990, while Bulgaria and Slovakia did it in 2006 and 2008 respectively. One of the two power units of the VVER-440/230 nuclear power plant in Novovoronej in Russia was shut down in 2016, the other one on December 12, 2017; the two units of the Kolsk nuclear power plant will be shut down in 2018 and 2019.
That is to say, in 2019 the Armenian NPP will probably be the only nuclear power plant, where power unit of VVER-440/230 generation will still be functioning.
The Nuclear Power Plant in EU-Armenia Agreement
The text of the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement signed between Armenia and the EU at the end of last year became a source of heated debate also because of the possible closure of the nuclear power plant.The provision of the agreement on the closure of the Nuclear Power Plant states that it is necessary to approve a roadmap or action plan, which intends to substitute the Metsamor NPP with new capacities necessary to ensure Armenia’s energy security and sustainable development. In the meantime, the agreement does not rule out 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. In other words, in case of construction of a new nuclear power plant, Armenia will enjoy EU assistance in its security issues.
Moreover, the necessity of closing the Armenian nuclear power plant was discussed on October 2, 2008. At that time, newly elected President Serzh Sargsyan announced from the tribune of the National Assembly the launch of the construction of a new nuclear power plant.
After the accident at the Japanese Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant in 2011, the Armenian government announced that the Metsamor NPP would operate until 2016. Over 9 years have passed since Serzh Sargsyan’s promise, but Armenia still does not have a new nuclear power plant. Meanwhile, the exploitation of the second power unit at the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant, which was put into operation in 1980 and is currently under Russian management, was decided to extend until 2026.
The above mentioned proves that members of the “People’s Voice” public club Arman Ghukasyan and Tsovinar Kostanyan spread disinformation because the Armenian officials have already spoken at the highest level about the closure of the nuclear power plant. In addition, The EU-Armenia agreement does not imply a ban on building a new nuclear power plant, meanwhile the current nuclear power plant, cannot work forever, to put it mildly.