The Armenian government’s recent decision to prolong the lifespan of the aging Metsamor nuclear power plant– a decision supported by the United States – is provoking a public outcry. But with no replacement energy source in sight, the government maintains it has no choice but to place faith in the facility’s sole functioning reactor.
Metsamor opened in 1976 and sits on earthquake-prone terrain near a residential area about 30 kilometers away from the Armenian capital, Yerevan. The nuclear plant generates almost 40 per cent of Armenia’s electricity. For almost two decades, various international plans have been circulating to either shut the plant down, or keep it on life-support until a new power source can be secured.
Authorities several years ago set 2016 as the target date for Metsamor’s retirement. Then, on November 6, officials announced that, given Metsamor’s favorable results in 2011 stress tests conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the facility’s lifespan would be extended to 2026.
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Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter in Yerevan and the editor of MediaLab.am.