Metsamor: The imminent danger
FAIG BAGHIROVOne of the gravest risks that the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant presents to the people of the region is the potential for the production of nuclear arms. With the Armenian government refusing to shut it down for years on the pretext of not being able to produce enough power, Metsamor gives cause for concern over the smuggling of nuclear materials. Some have claimed that the Armenian government is not only using Metsamor just for power production but also for serious work on nuclear arms technology. With terrorism having acquired a global aspect amid the potential for terrorist organizations to obtain nuclear arms, it is unfortunate that Armenia’s ancient Metsamor Plant is providing a platform for terrorist organizations to acquire radioactive materials.
These concerns have become more prevalent when one considers the efforts by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and similar organizations that seek to obtain enriched uranium. In April 2016, smugglers who were of Armenian origin were caught while trying to sell off uranium worth 238 million dollars.
It has also been proven that Azerbaijani territory under Armenian occupation has been used to store and transport nuclear materials. According to the latest data, there are 29 radiation centers which provide raw materials for Metsamor in the occupied territories.
Azeri President İlham Aliyev drew attention to the threat of Metsamor in a speech delivered at the World Humanitarian Congress held in Istanbul in April and emphasized the necessity of relevant organizations in investigating the nuclear threats voiced by Armenian officials and claims that the country has a dirty bomb.
A threat to Turkey
The Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant continues to present a threat to Turkey. Studies on the impact of a potential nuclear leak at Metsamor show that tens of thousands of people in Eastern Anatolia, especially in the provinces of Iğdır, Kars and Ardahan, would be affected. The fact that the plant is located just 16 kilometers from the border with Turkey is, in itself, a clear indicator of the level of danger. Metsamor also poses a major radioactive threat to the eastern provinces of Turkey because of its antiquated technology and because it is located on the Eastern Anatolian fault line. Experts consider it a serious possibility that all of eastern and southeastern Turkey could be affected as a result of a potential earthquake or major nuclear leak at the plant.
Despite all the obstacles in its way, Azerbaijan continues to take the international initiative to draw attention to the Metsamor threat. The most recent of these initiatives was undertaken on June 2, when representatives of NGOs from the wider region (Azerbaijan, Turkey, Israel, Ukraine, Iran, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and Georgia) met to discuss the issue. The meeting was also attended by an Armenian representative who criticized the nonchalant attitude of his country, indicating the indifferent attitude of Armenian officials who have turned completely away from all proposed solutions for ending the operation of Metsamor. A joint decision taken at the meeting resulted in the founding of the “Stop Metsamor Coalition” to draw the attention of the international community to the Metsamor threat.
The imminent danger posed by Metsamor has now become completely real. When coupled with the unconstructive attitude of Armenia, the whole issue begins to show a lot of similarities to Armenia’s policies of occupation in Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven regions surrounding it.
*Faig Baghirov is Azerbaijan’s ambassador to Turkey.