As more bad news emerge about Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was hit by last month’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, I become increasingly uneasy about Armenia’s Soviet-built Metsamor plant.
My way of thinking is – if Japan, with all of its advanced technology, couldn’t properly secure their nuke plant, what will happen to our plant, should a powerful earthquake hit?
I’ve seen the disastrous earthquake in Gyumri in 1988 (I was just a kid than), and I remember, how the grown ups, who had just lost their houses, their relatives and were struggling to survive, where saying: “Thank God the earthquake didn’t hit Metsamor.” That was 22 year ago. Until recently, the Armenian government was planning to decommission the Metsamor reactor and replace it by a more modern facility by 2017. However, a senior nuclear official in Yerevan said last August that the shutdown will likely be delayed by several years because the construction of a new nuclear plant will take more time than previously thought.
I mean, the reactor is too old as it is already, and now they’re extending its service time? And Armenia is located in an area, where powerful earthquakes happen.
I can understand our officials – the economy was hit badly during the Global economic meltdown in 2008-2009, and the Metsamor plant meets about 40 percent of Armenia’s energy needs, its a major source of revenue and a hope for energy safety to Armenia’s economy, which is still blockaded by hostile Azerbaijan and Turkey.
But God, what will happen if an earthquake hits?
Armenian government officials and nuclear experts dismiss concerns, and say Metsamor’s reactor design is different from Fukushima’s and that the facility is reliable enough to withstand a powerful earthquake. Citing geological data, they claim that a magnitude 8.9 earthquake, which has wreaked havoc on Japan, is extremely unlikely to ever hit Armenia.
Another argument made by them is that the plant has undergone numerous safety upgrades since one of its two reactors was reactivated in 1995. According to the Energy Ministry, Armenia has received $130 million worth of assistance from the United States, the European Union, Russia and other international bodies to finance those improvements.
Right, so I believe them… do you?