Political expert: Reports that the Azeri Parliament might adopt a law "On Occupied Territories of Azerbaijan" were just an attempt to see the reaction of the Azeri society, Armenia and the world community
Marat Terterov: Armenia’s long term security will be better served by strengthening economic security, rather than defining national security on the basis of the Tsarist Russian catch-cry “armiya i flot”
by Alexander Avanesov
The license for delivery of electric power from Georgia to Armenia will expire on 31 December 2013. The official buyer of Georgian electric power is the Yerevan Thermal Power Plant (TPP), which thinks that the electricity is imported thanks to its cheaper price. In 2011 alone Armenia imported 210 mln KW/h of electric power from Georgia, which was as much as throughout 2010. Georgia, unlike Armenia, has a market pricing for electric power, which is a crucial factor for attracting investors. No wonder that Inter RAO has sold the Sevan-Hrazdan HPP Cascade to RusHydro. The Sevan-Hrazdan HPP Cascade proved to be loss-making and burdened with a big investment program, which made its payback period longer.
Against this background, the attempts to implement a project on construction of a new nuclear power unit in Armenia seem at least strange. A natural question arises – what for, if we buy the electric power abroad? Moreover, at the moment the republic has 3200 MW installed capacity, whereas in winter only 1300 MW is used. Even if one takes into account a possible two-digit economic growth in the country within the next 5-6 years (which is rather doubtful), it will all the same be impossible to reach the maximum level of consumption. Nevertheless, when implementing a project on perspective development of the energy sector, Armenia has made its decision in favor of nuclear potential development. The given fact in itself was predicted. But the accident at Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant in Japan was not predicted. This accident has once again raised worldwide the problem of safety of the nuclear power units. As a result, the Government of Germany made a decision on gradual decommissioning of its nuclear power units. China also wonders whether it is expedient to build a new power unit.
We wouldn’t like to hurt the Armenian nuclear physicists, but their professionalism is unlikely to outstrip that of the Japanese or German specialists. The experienced power engineers remember the incident in the early 1980s, when a fire occurred at the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant, which could have led to a disaster. There are no guarantees that no such emergency situation will happen again. Realizing all these factors, the European Union insists on decommissioning of the Armenian NPP as soon as possible. Moreover, Euroatom Organization is ready to lend 200 mln EUR for decommissioning of the NPP. It is also noteworthy that the EU is not ready to stimulate the project on construction of a new nuclear power unit in Armenia.
In terms of politics, the intentions of the Armenian authorities are quite easy to understand. Nuclear technologies give the country access to the nuclear club and its privileges. But in terms of economics, there are lots of questions. After the Fukushima accident in Japan, the requirements to nuclear power plants have been toughened. The new reactor will cost Armenia as much as $5bln, which will become a heavy burden for its economy as the investors will insist on high tariffs in hope to return their money as quickly as possible.
But the main question is what we will do with the excess of electricity. Georgia does not need it. Iran is going to build as many as 20 nuclear and thermal power units. Turkey is also planning to have its own NPP and, as a big consumer of Iranian, Russia and Azeri gas, is actively developing its thermal and hydro energy sectors. The arguments of our Energy and Natural Resource Ministry that renewable and alternative energy sources will not suffice Armenia for meeting its basic needs are not very convincing, especially considering our real needs. For our economy, the way it is now, it is enough to have what we already have, plus the planned water power plants in Meghri, Shnokh and Lori-Berd (of course, if they are built). Taken together, these plants will be as powerful as the existing unit of Armenian Nuclear Power Plant. You may add to this the small water power plants that are supposed to be built in the next four-five years and to produce as much as 900mln KWh against 480mln KWh in 2011.
Generally, when planning energy development, they in the world consider a similar plan for the economy. Are we planning any economic back-up for the megawatts we are going to create? For tourism or, say, information technologies we are not. So as to have an efficiency energy sector, we need to restart all of our industrial capacities: Nairit Plant, Yerevan Tire Works, Armkhimmash and the other 1,400 factories that enjoyed monopoly in the Soviet times but today are either idle or no longer existent.
In one word, as Armenia’s Energy and Natural Resource Minister Armen Movsisyan put it once, a nuclear power plant is not a taxi you can stop wherever and whenever you like, an NPP is a complex mechanism requiring close control and regulation. Let’s hope it will be the way he said.