Taking into account a nuclear reactor similar to Chernobyl and a probability of human error, a similar accident is possible at Armenia’s Metsamor nuclear power plant, said Akira Tokuhiro, professor of mechanical and nuclear engineering, University of Idaho/Center for Advanced Energy Studies (USA).
Tokuhiro has been working in the area of nuclear energy for more than 20 years.
“The misuse, mistaken or negligent use of a machine can indeed cause a negative outcome because a nuclear reactor contains both large amounts of energy and harmful products -radioactivity, the negative outcome can be extreme damaging,” the expert told Trend by e-mail May 17.
The expert added that the risk is more in the emergency preparedness of the operators at the plant and administration.
“Assuming that the plant shuts down, then sufficient cooling has to be provided to dissipate what is called the decay heat of the reactor, even when turned off,” the expert said.
“Graphite-based reactors such as the Metsamor reactor have a fair amount of thermal energy storage capacity but there can be boiling in the water filled tubes for extracting thermal energy,” the expert said.
The expert recalled that despite the lessons learned from the Chernobyl accident, one major safety barrier, a western-type containment building (as opposed to a confinement building mostly for protecting against weather) has not been constructed at Metsamor nuclear power plant.
“The containment building would be the final barrier if there was any accident that led to release of energy from the reactor,” he said. “This may be an institutional and economic resource error.”
The expert said that the world community should pay more attention and take necessary measures to address the safety issues at Metsamor nuclear power plant.
“We live in an age with the global commercialization and money, profit is what seems to matter the most,” he said. “So, safety especially in a far off land not in the news, such as Armenia, receives very little news coverage.”
“I would hope that IAEA take a more visible role than it is, in call for action at Metsamor nuclear power plant,” he said.
Armenia has a nuclear power plant, Metsamor, built in 1970. The power plant was closed after a devastating earthquake in Spitak in 1988. But despite the international protests, the power plant’s operation was resumed in 1995. Moreover, a second reactor was launched there.
According to the ecologists and scholars all over the region, seismic activity of this area turns operation of the Metsamor nuclear power plant in an extremely dangerous enterprise, even if a new type of reactor is built.