New Armenian Nuclear Plant to be Twice as Powerful as Metsamor

metsamor_aerien-small

Photo by Bouarf from the Wikimedia Creative Commons. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Bouarf

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia will start building a new nuclear power station in place of its Metsamor plant by the beginning of 2011, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Armen Movsisian said on Monday.

With a projected capacity of 1,000-1,200 megawatts, the new nuclear plant would be more than twice as powerful as Metsamor’s sole operating reactor that generates more than 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity. The Soviet-built reactor is due to be decommissioned in 2017.

“According to preliminary estimates, the new atomic block will cost approximately $5 billion,” Movsisian told RFE/RL. “A more precise figure will emerge after the completion of design works.”

“In my opinion, the construction work will start at the end of next year or at the beginning of 2011,” he said.

The Armenian government last week declared an Australian engineering company, Worley Parsons, the winner of an international tender for the right to manage the ambitious project. The two sides are due to hold negotiations and sign a relevant contract soon.

“The next step will be to design the future block, after which we will enlist and select potential investors,” said Movsisian. “That will be followed by the design work and the construction process itself.” The company that will carry out the construction will be chosen in a separate tender, he added.

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9 Comments

  1. Aram said:

    This is actually a big fraud scheme in which about $2-$3 billion will be completely stolen. Initial price tag was in the range of $1 billion – $2 billion. It would cost only 20% (i.e. $1 billion) to produce the same amount of electricity using wind and solar power (Armenia has plenty of these renewable sources).

    Furthermore, nuclear fuel will still need to be purchased from Russia (to compare, wind and solar don’t require fuel purchase). Finally, nuclear waste (that will amount to tens of tons per year) must be stored in Armenia for thousands of years, and will cost a lot of money to maintain. There will always be the threat of a nuclear waste leak into the Ararat valley which is Armenia’s principle agricultural fields. Top this off with Armenia’s highly seismic region, and this Nuclear Power Plant is just asking for disaster.

    Let’s work together to stop this madness! Stop the creation of the nuclear power plant! Save the Armenian taxpayer over $4 billion and preserve Armenia’s environment! Renewable energy is the way to go for Armenia!

    For more information, see http://www.renewableenergyarmenia.am

  2. Aram said:

    (to clarify, it will be stolen by officials in the Armenian government close to the energy ministry.)

  3. Haro said:

    As a scientist, I completely agree with Aram’s comments. Nuclear Energy is quite old now, and the way to go is other renewable energy sources. Armenia has the high professionals in this area and can very well be a front-runner of other type of energy sources. Whatever happened to the Victor Hamparzumian generation of scientists. WAKE UP ARMENIANS…

  4. William Bairamian said:

    I agree that renewable energy sources should be expanded in Armenia. There is a lot of potential and it is already very important that there are people, per the website that Aram posted, that are working on it.

    That said, just going by the numbers on that website, I don’t see renewable energy becoming the ONLY source of energy for Armenia. On the website, it shows that the maximum potential capacity for wind energy is 500 MW and that is the most feasible and lowest cost renewable energy source. Solar, which is not nearly as efficient, will not produce anything near 500 MW. This is problematic if Armenia’s energy requirements are not even fulfilled by the new nuclear plant they will be building (which will have a capacity, as stated in the article, of 1000-1200 MW).

    That means that if Armenia were wholly dependent upon renewable energy as its only domestic power source, they would still have to import fuel from Russia and Iran. Also, consider that Armenia’s energy demands will increase with the population and with development.

    One more problem with renewable energy is that it cannot be stored. Once it is produced, it must be sent into the grid. So, if Armenia produces has a few good months in, say, August and September but it has little sunlight thereafter, through the winter, it will be in a very precarious situation. Considering the political instability surrounding Armenia, it would not be prudent to depend on an energy source which may not be able to provide when it is most needed.

    This aversion to nuclear power is unfounded. Nuclear energy is clean, largely safe (with new technologies), and very low cost (after the plant is built). There are ways to safeguard a plant in seismic areas, as is the case with the San Onofre plant in California. Also, France derives a significant majority of its electricity from nuclear power and they have done so for years, without major hiccups. http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf40.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_France.

    Therefore, I think it is good that Armenia will have a major source of power which will allow it to be somewhat energy independent and, additionally, it should dedicate funding to the development of the renewable energy resources sector to relieve its dependence on gas and oil from foreign countries.

  5. Armanen said:

    Aram, get over yourself. Armenia shouldn’t have to choose between solar/wind energy and nuclear, there is absolutely not reason why it can not have both.

  6. Aram said:

    Dear William,

    The theoretical wind potential of Armenia is 4,000 MWe. The Renewable Energy Armenia website (above) references the 500 MW of actual proven SITES in Armenia. There are many more such sites that require funding to research and come up with exact power potential.

    The second key source of renewable energy for Armenia is hydro (water) power. Only approximately 40% of Armenia’s 3.6 billion kWh in “economically justifiable” hydropower potential has been developed (in other words, there exists about 2.1 billion kWh of untapped hydropower potential). To put this number into perspective, the Metsamor NPP generated 2.6 billion kWh in 2006. (references: http://www.renewableenergyarmenia.am/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=41&Itemid=112 and http://www.psrc.am/download.php?fid=6533)

    With regard to energy demand in Armenia: Armenia, a country of now at most 2.5 million people according to experts, has stable if not declining demand in electricity, because its population is continuing to shrink as has the manufacturing sector. In 2006, Armenia consumed 5.57 billion kWh of electricity (which comes out to an average rate of 635.5 MWe). see http://www.psrc.am/download.php?fid=6533

    With regard to energy demand and peak usage, it costs less than 20% to produce the equivalent energy using a natural gas-fire thermal plant as compared to a nuclear power plant. Armenia can store – as it currently does – natural gas in reserves for usage in peak times in the unlikely event that both solar and hydro might not be producing sufficient power. The new Iran-Armenia natural gas pipeline only provides greater security for this type of project, in the even that Russian sourced natural gas is stopped due to conflict or other unforseeable reasons.

    The aversion to nuclear energy is quite founded given the cited risks, especially with regard to the storage of nuclear waste which amounts to about 13 tons per year for the Metsamor power plant and will be significantly more for the proposed plant. It should be stressed that this nuclear waste is not leaving Armenia and is being accumulated on site at Metsamor in the Ararat valley. Anyone living in Armenia knows the critical importance of the Ararat valley in providing food in the form of agricultural fields for the population of Armenia; any nuclear leak in the waste storage tanks can permanently contaminate the entire area and flow south through underground acquifers and above ground rivers, leading to an enormous environmental disaster that would contaminate large agricultural areas of the Ararat valley. (This is not to mention the risk of a powerful earthquake striking the power plant itself while it is in operation.)

    Lastly, the sheer COST of a nuclear power plant is enormous – at least 5 times greater than wind and hydroelectric power, and at least 4 times greater than natural gas-fired thermal power plants.

    Clearly, renewable energy alone can meet Armenia’s current energy demands; indeed, hydropower already makes up 33% of Armenia’s electricity generation. Wind and hydroelectric combined with more natural gas-fired thermal power plants (to provide for peak power) is the most cost effective and environmentally friendly plan to providing Armenia’s energy needs, a conclusion that is resonated strongly by the experts involved in Armenia’s energy sector.

    Iceland is a far better role model for Armenia than the U.S. and France are. Iceland generates 100% of its electrical energy using renewable energy source: 70% from hydroelectric and 40% from geothermal. See http://www.statice.is/?PageID=1230&src=/temp_en/Dialog/varval.asp?ma=IDN02101%26ti=Installed+capacity+and+generation+in+public+power+plants+1976-2007+%26path=../Database/idnadur/orkumal/%26lang=1%26units=Megawatt/Gigawatt%20hour%20/percent

    Even Germany is a better role model, which has an installed wind power capacity of 23,903 MW and 837 MW of PV solar cells. (These numbers can be put into perspective when compared to the 635 MWe of average electrical energy consumed by Armenia.)

    Another key source of renewable energy that needs more research to find appropriate sites is geothermal energy in Armenia. Most of Armenia’s mountains are actually volcanoes. Sites such as Arzakan hot springs in the Kotayk region and several possible locations in the Syunik area should be more thoroughly researched as this is an endless source of renewable energy provided by the heat from within the Earth.

    Dear Armanen,

    Just because something is possible does not mean that it should be made reality. Coal power plants are also an option, even though coal power is generally cheap, its cost to import the coal and the harmful environmental effects of coal burning, make it an unfavorable option, even though it is a possibility. Nuclear power similarly is very expensive and very harmful to the environment. Indeed, it presents an existential threat to Armenia: to both it s population directly as well as indirectly by the danger it poses to Armenia’s valuable agricultural fields of the Ararat plain.

    Regards,
    Aram

  7. Armanen said:

    I realize just because something is possible doesn’t mean it should be made or done. In this case though, I believe Armenia should focus on re-newable energies and nuclear power.

    As for Armenia’s population, it is growing not shrinking, your 2.5 million figure was maybe true in the late 90s, and even then it was closer to 2.8-2.9 mil. Armenia’s current population is over 3.2 mil and due to the current world econ. crisis, a number of Armenians from the CIS have come to Armenia.

  8. Aram said:

    Dear Asbarez,
    The image you have used is from Wikimedia Commons at (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Metsamor_aerien.jpg). This image has been release under the Creative Commons Sharealike Attribution license which requires that users of the image (e.g. Asbarez) attribute the work to its author (and ideally provide a link back to the original file).

    At the bottom of the image, you must credit Wikipedia user Bouarf and link to his user page (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Bouarf) as well as to the original location of the image (see above).

    Regards,
    Aram

  9. Aram said:

    Dear Armanen,

    You write, “I believe Armenia should focus on re-newable energies and nuclear power.” Making such important national decisions should not be based on the “beliefs” of people but must be based on sound economic, engineering, environmental, and social considerations.

    With the above text I have attempted to show that the proposed nuclear power is not a good choice in any of these four aspects. The remaining $3-$4 billion dollars (approximately 50% of Armenia’s official GDP which is actually inflated) can be better spent on important social programs such as education, health care, sewage treatment, water piping in Yerevan and village & small towns, small business loans, city beautification, waste management, and more.

    Otherwise, this proposed huge infrastructure project is very reminiscent of an older generation Soviet era projects, in which the larger the project, the easier it is for state cronies (e.g. officials close to the energy ministry) to skim off very large amounts of money from the project.

    This latter aspect should not be underestimated.

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