YEREVAN (Armenpress–Noyan Tapan)–Great Britain’s ambassador to Armenia Timothy Jones reiterated the European Union’s concerns over the safe operation of the Armenian Nuclear power plant on Tuesday.
Speaking to at a news conference–Jones said the European Union was conducting negotiations with Armenia on decommissioning the Medzamor plant. "This is the official position of the EU–not a single country would like to have such a threat," he said–adding that the EU was also holding negotiations with donor organizations on the establishment of an international fund to permanently close the plant.
The Armenian nuclear power plant–located approximately 16 miles from Yerevan is made up of two working units. One unit began producing energy in 1976–and the other in 1980. The plant’s overall capacity is 815 megawatts. The plant was brought to a halt in March of 1989 following the destructive earthquake in December 1988 that razed virtually one third of the country. The plant resumed operations in November 1995–after being closed for six and a half years.
The opponents of the closure say the safety and reliability of the plant is continuously improving.
In September 1999–Armenia and the European Union signed a protocol on shutting down the Medzamor plant in 2004–but only with the condition that other power plants with a capacity equivalent to that of the nuclear power plant were installed.
Also speaking at the news conference–an official from the French embassy in Yerevan Couragelong did not seem to share Jones’ concerns. He used France as an example–saying that approximately 85 percent of France’s energy is generated by nuclear power plants. "We are not shutting down our nuclear power plants–we are constantly reinforcing their safety," he said.
Italy’s ambassador to Yerevan Paolo Trabalza emphasized the fast that Armenia is located in a highly seismic zone and "no one is secured against disasters caused by unexpected earthquakes." In the wake of Chernobyl catastrophe–the ambassador said that Italy decided to gradually shut down all of its nuclear power plants.
In conclusion–Jones said that Armenia was provided with many alternatives to nuclear energy.
Ensuring energy security is one of the main problems for any country. The mentioned problem proves to be a complicated political–economic–technical category. For a country like Armenia–barren in energy resources and situated in an unstable region–the issue of ensuring energy safety is of paramount importance. Today–in Armenia–approximately 60 percent of energy is generated by local sources–where less than 30 percent is generated by hydro-energy–more than 30 percent is generated by nuclear energy–also from a local source. One of the effective means to assure independence in the energy industry is arranging measures for the diversification (interchangeability or mutual reservation) of the system.
Proceeding from this–many Armenian experts think that Armenia must possess and develop its nuclear energy system. Moreover–there is no essential problem concerning nuclear fuel transportation: two cargo plane flights would secure the necessary amount of fuel for a year. Refueling once a year–the existing unit can generate 30 percent–and even 40 percent of all the electricity generated in the country.
It is highly unprofitable for Armenia to lose such a source of electricity–whose safety and reliability is increasingly growing. Over recent years the plant’s reliability increased 10-fold or more. As is known–in September 1999–in Brussels–representatives of the government of Armenia and the European Union signed a protocol on the shutdown of the Medzamor Power Plant in which–however–it is fixed that the plant may be closed only if new capacities equivalent to its capacity are build in Armenia. According to this document–the tentative date for the plant’s closure is 2004.
Here–the question of the terms of construction of substitute capacities arises. An expert–who wished to remain anonymous thinks that in the current conditions in Armenia–it is quite difficult to build anything new. A new power plant would involve complex political–economic and other types of problems. Within the framework of the long-term plan of energy sector development devised in 1996 and requiring approximately $1.4 billion of investmen’s–nothing was done in 2001–except for the construction of a few small hydro-power plants–by private businessmen–with a capacity of no more than 1 megawatt.
The main problem that arises when discussing the construction of a new plant is the lack of investmen’s. Even the presence of necessary sums for replacing the current capacities–for the construction of some facilities or others ensuring diversification of fuel supply does not yet mean that corresponding facilities will appear immediately.
To define the possible date of the Armenian NPP’s shutdown–in Armenia–within the framework of the TACIS program–a study was conducted–with the participation of two Italian firms and the energy strategic center of Armenia’s Ministry of Energy. They concluded that the Medzamor Power Plant can be safely operated until 2008.
Currently–in Armenia–the issue of closing the nuclear power plant and further developing nuclear energy is being considered. According to the agreement reached between the government of Armenia and the IAEA–local specialists launched the development of a plan of developing Armenia’s fuel-energy complex for the period until 2030. Nuclear energy is also among the long-term tasks in this project.