Officials in Armenia have long downplayed the potential threats posed by the aging Metsamor nuclear power plant, not far from the capital Yerevan. At the same time, the facility has been repeatedly ranked as one of the world’s most dangerous nuclear power stations. To reassure a jittery international community in the wake of Japan’s nuclear troubles, the Armenian government has invited International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to subject the Metsamor plant to a “stress test.”
The 12-person IAEA team is due to be in Armenia from May 15-June 1. Thirty-five-year-old Metsamor, which supplies about 40 percent of Armenia’s energy needs, has long been a target for criticism. The plant is supposed to be shut down after the construction of a new facility in 2016, but, with five years still to go to decommissioning, there is mounting pressure to ensure that no mishaps occur during this twilight phase of operations.
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Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter based in Yerevan and editor of MediaLab.am.