Government International Organizations Discuss Options on Nuclear Power Plant Closure

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–On October 19–Chief of a government-affiliated agency for control of atomic energy–Ashot Martirosian–said the government and several international organizations are discussing the option to decommission the Armenian nuclear power plant–Medzamor.

A document must first be developed with partners in the US and Europe–stating a set of deman’s necessitating its decommissioning.

The Medzamor nuclear power plant is approximately 30 kilometers from Yerevan. It is a first-generation Soviet plant capable of producing 880 megawatts of electricity. Armenia depends on the station for about 40 per cent of its electricity.

Built in 1976–the twin-reactor station sits near major geological fault lines–one of which caused the Spitak earthquake that killed at least 25,000 people in 1988. Medzamor is also in one of Armenia’s most densely populated areas.

Only one 440 megawatt reactor is running today–but the European Union says that given the plant’s location–age–and the need for its nuclear fuel to travel by air–Medzamor should close down altogether.

Armenian officials insist that Medzamor was specially built by Soviet engineers to survive earthquakes of up to eight to nine on the Richter scale. And although of a similar vintage–the VVER-440 reactor it uses is safer than the one at Chernobyl.

During the 1988 earthquake–the nuclear plant withstood tremors measuring between five and six on the Richter scale. Both reactors at the plant were shut down in the aftermath of that earthquake–but the second unit was restarted in 1995 because of the country’s dire need for energy.

The European Union argues that the risk of an accident or an earthquake is too great–and that more effort must be made to find alternative power sources. In June of last year–the EU froze a grant of 100 million euros because of what it said was the Armenian government’s slowness in fulfilling earlier commitmen’s to close the station.

But the main obstacle to shutting down Medzamor is that Armenia’simply does not have the natural resources or the money to find working alternatives.

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