By Abdul Kerimkhanov
The solution of the issue of disposal of radioactive waste of Armenia’s Metsamor nuclear power plant (NPP), the further operation of which is a threat to the whole South Caucasus region, is again delayed for an indefinite time.
Vardan Martirosyan, the head of the credit and grant programs department of the Ministry of Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources, has previously said that Armenia began developing a pilot program for the export of the spent nuclear fuel (SNF) to Russia through Georgia.
Martirosyan optimistically emphasized that the implementation of this pilot program would solve two problems: first, Armenia would get rid of the accumulated spent nuclear fuel, and secondly, it would be possible to “break the deadlock” and create a precedent for the SNF export from the country through Georgia.
However, in reality, the picture does not look as favorable as the Armenian official thinks.
The problem is that over the past 25 years, the process of accumulation of SNF has been going on at the Armenian NPP. Because of the occupation of the territories of Azerbaijan and Armenia’s isolation from the region, Armenia does not have access to the outside world by rail, but SNF can only be transported this way. Until 1989, nuclear waste was exported by rail through Azerbaijan to Russia, but today, this road is closed.
Ashot Martirosyan, Chairman of Armenia’s Nuclear Safety Commitее, said that the issue of exporting spent nuclear fuel from the Armenian NPP to Russia has not yet been resolved. He also noted that the SNF removal is possible only through the railway, but this cannot be done through Azerbaijan, and the decision to export through Georgia may create problems, given the Abkhazia issue.
"Until the problem is resolved at the political level, talking about the technical side of the issue is pointless," he stressed.
Thus, the Metsamor NPP problem is still there, and the whole region is worried about the negative consequences of its further operation.
First, Armenia is neighbor of Azerbaijan, and secondly, there has been information about the disposal of nuclear waste in the occupied Azerbaijani territories. Various experts note that in Soviet times in Armenia there were no conditions for the SNF disposal, and neither then nor now there were technologies for its reprocessing.
From the beginning of the 21st century, the reactor pool of the Metsamor NPP was filled, as well as the reserve section. The pool of the stopped and inoperative reactor has also been filled for many years. The only container is temporary storage built by the French.
The construction of the Metsamor NPP started in 1970. The plant was shut down after a devastating earthquake of 1988 in the town of Spitak. However, in 1995, despite numerous protests of international community, the Armenian government resumed the operation of the NPP, and moreover, the second reactor was launched.
A number of international experts have repeatedly urged that due to its deplorable state, the Metsamor NPP could repeat the fate of the Chernobyl NPP, thus threatening the lives of the Armenians and inhabitants of the adjacent countries. The possible tragedy will also jeopardize the environmental state of the region. Moreover, its consequences will be felt in Europe and the Middle East.
Abdul Kerimkhanov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AbdulKerim94
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