Metsamor NPP threatens the South Caucasus and the Middle East

By Vestnik Kavkaza
Metsamor NPP threatens the South Caucasus and the Middle East

After Armenia signed an agreement with the EU last November, it promised to reform its energy sector. The text of this agreement has a clause about closure of the only nuclear power plant in the region, located near the city of Metsamor, which provides about 40% of the country's energy. Environmentalists have been opposing it for a long time. Campaign under the slogan StopMetsamor has Facebook and Twitter accounts. Initiators of this campaign are asking the world community, the UN and the IAEA to close the Metsamor nuclear power plant, which poses a threat to the region.

Among the reasons why this NPP should be closed experts often mention the following: it was built in a 9.0 magnitude seismic zone, but the reactor's seismic resistance is designed for earthquakes of 8.0 magnitude; plant does not have safe earthquake shutdown System; the whole country is within the seismic zone with 7 - 11 intensity, according to MSK scale; earthquakes happened in 1926, 1931, and in Spitak, 1988, 75 km dist. from Metsamor NPP; soviet experts objected to the choice of its site. The US government has called it "aging and dangerous", while the EU classifies it as the “oldest and least reliable”.  "In principle, NPP's should not be built in active seismic zones. This plant is threat to entire region," Alexis Luber, former EU ambassador to Armenia, said.

Plant fails to meet the internationally accepted safety standards and does not have emergency cooling system. Fukhisima Daichi's containment facilities failed to stop escaping radioactive material . Metsamor even does not have containment facilities. In addition, no serious or fudamental maintenance work was carried out. Armenia lacks the financial and material resources to maintain and operate it in accordance with the safety procedures and is not able to provide the required spare parts in a timely manner. Armenia lacks the human resources required to ensure the operation of the plant by the necessary requirements and most of the professionals trained during the USSR period have migrated.

Igor Yushkov, leading analyst of the National Energy Security Fund, said in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza that if an accident occurs at the Armenian NPP, it can reach global scale: "The entire region will suffer from technogenic catastrophe, not only Armenia itself. In addition, an accident at any nuclear power plant generates a new wave of distrust towards the nuclear energy... If any accident occurs, it will affect the entire nuclear power industry in general and Russian prospects in this field in particular, because danger of the nuclear power plants will be actively discussed. All Western companies will begin to say that this is not just an accident, but an accident at the Soviet, Russian nuclear power plant, and this will affect Rosatom, its projects in other countries. It will happen even if they will be able to avoid nuclear contamination."

By burying radioactive waste from MNPP in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan and by dumping the waste into rivers running into those territories Armenia has created conditions for ecological calamities whose serious consequences will not be eliminated for tens of years. Rivers Kura and Araz is constantly polluted through the pollution of small rivers flowing into them.

"Toxic waste from the Metsamor nuclear power plant and aluminum plant in Armenia are dumped in the Araks river, and it threatens both the river and people living nearby," said Kemaleddin Pirmuazzin, representative of the Iranian Parliamentary Committee for Environmental Protection.

"Metsamor NPP, which is located in seismically dangerous zone, is far from being in best technical condition. As a result of ongoing technical works, there are regular power outages. At one time, the entire country was left without electricity, because one of the cables for supplying electricity from Iran turned out to be defective," German political scientist Heiko Langner said in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.

Russian magazine "Atomic Energy" cited several examples of dangerous nuclear activities in Armenia:

May 22, 1999 - Two Armenians were arrested in Beregovo, Ukraine, while attempting to sell 20 kg of U-235.

December 19, 2001 - 300 gr of uranium brought from Armenia was seized in Samtskhe-Javakheti, Georgia.

June 26, 2003 - Garik Dadadyan, a citizen of Armenia, was arrested in Sadakhlo-Bagratashen checkpoint between Armenia and Georgia for attempting to smuggle 170 g of highly enriched uranium U-235.

December 29, 2003 - Strontium-90 radioactive material in a scrap metal shipment outbounded from Metsamor for Iran was found in Megri checkpoint on the Armenian-Iranian border.

March 13, 2004 - Armenian citizen was arrested in Sadakhlo-Bagratashen checkpoint for transferring radioactive materials to Georgia.

October 24, 2007 - Four Armenian citizens were detained in Sarpi checkpoint on the Georgia-Turkey border for attempting to transfer 2.04 g of Lawrencium-103 to Turkey.

August 26, 2009 - The traces of Cesium-137 were found in Sadakhlo-Bagratashen checkpoint on the Armenian-Georgian border in the vehicle belonging to a resident of Noratus village of Gegharkunik, Armenia.

March, 2010 - Two Armenians, businessman Smbat Tonoyan and physicist of the Yerevan Institute of Physics Hrant Ohanyan were arrested at the hotel in Tbilisi with 18 gr uranium. The investigation revealed that Tonoyan would sell 120 g uranium for 1,5 million dollars.

September 16, 2010 - Three persons were arrested at Tbilisi airport for attempting to sell a small quantity of uranian and plutonium.

August, 2014 - Georgian authorities arrested two Armenians in Sadakhlo-Bagratashen checkpoint on the Armenian-Georgian border.

January, 2016 - Georgian authorities arrested three Armenians, also for trying to sneak Cesium-137 across the border in Sadakhlo-Bagratashen checkpoint on the Armenian Georgian border.

April, 2016 - Georgia's State Security Service detained three citizens of Armenia and three citizens of Georgia who tried to sell $200 million worth of Uranium-238 that was found in the home of one of the Georgians. It was revealed that detainees previously worked in Metsamor NPP. This group planned to sell it to the Middle East region.

Activists from StopMetsamor also believe that this plant is a potential target for terrorits at the very borders of the EU and cannot resist any plane crash.