An objective look at the development of electric power industry in Armenia
The service life of the Metsamor nuclear power plant is extended to 2026. Currently, only its second block is functioning, providing about 30-35% of the country's annual electricity generation. The Armenian leadership needs to resolve the issue of building a new nuclear power plant in advance.
Last week, representatives of the US State Department and the US Department of Energy visited Yerevan and expressed interest in deepening relations with the republic in the field of nuclear energy. At the meeting, the question was raised of the safe operation of the Metsamor NPP, the construction of a small photovoltaic station on its territory, as well as the program of measures for the management of radioactive waste. According to the statement of Deputy Minister of Energy Hakob Vardanyan, Armenia is interested in the prospects of building American-made small modular reactor (SMR) .
Modular reactors are indeed a design option to meet the demand for flexible power generation for a wide variety of users and applications. This is one of the most popular areas in the development of nuclear energy. Small modular reactors (SMRs) installed at single-block or multi-block stations open up the possibility of creating synergetic hybrid energy systems combining nuclear and alternative energy sources, including renewable sources.
Nevertheless, the decision to build a future American-style reactor on the territory of Armenia is not clearly the best and is objectively criticized. Worldwide, there are approximately 50 SMR projects and concepts. Currently, four SMRs are at advanced stages of construction in Argentina, China, Russia and France.
According to some experts, the construction of a Russian-designed SMR-based power plant is better and less expesive for the Armenian budget. The Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) is the undisputed favorite in the world in the number of export projects of nuclear power plants. Only Rosatom produces fast-neutron reactors that allow closing the nuclear fuel cycle. The principle of operation is the following: the residues in the "boiler" after the reaction by chemical methods are divided into different elements, most of which are sent back to the reactor, the rest is well amenable to processing and safe disposal.
The most important property of Russian-gesigned fast-neutron reactors is the highest level of operational safety, which allows the construction of such stations in the urban outskirts. They do not require any exclusion zone, and in case of any malfunction and the system goes beyond the specified parameters, the whole process immediately dies away without emission of radiation or hazardous substances. When choosing a fast-neutron reactor, the operation of a nuclear power plant in Armenia can be profitable, clean, and environmentally safe.
Obviously, the decision of the current leadership of Armenia to change the vector of cooperation in the development of the electric power industry in the republic is due to the lack of a sufficient level of interaction with Russia on this issue or the high skill of American officials in lobbying for their own interests. The reason for the increased attention of the US leadership to the energy sector in Armenia is the desire to impede the current strengthening of cooperation between the republic and Tehran. The main goal is the paralysis of the Armenian-Iranian strategic communication systems, which will inflict a significant blow on the economy of the two states and their trade communications with foreign markets.
Providing the USA with such a strategic project as the construction of a new source of electricity, Yerevan exposes itself to the threat of direct involvement in the anti-Iran confrontation. From the moment construction begins, the American establishment will have a lever of pressure that will make it possible to destroy the Armenian-Iranian dialogue.