Turkey’s energy minister calls on environmentalists to march against outdated nuke plant in Armenia
Merve Erdil – ISTANBUL
DHA PhotoEnergy Minister Taner Yıldız has called on environmentalists in Turkey to march together against a nuclear power plant in Armenia near the Turkish border, the life of which has been extended by 10 years although its original closing date was set for next year.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 21st International Energy and Environment Fair and Conference in Istanbul on May 6, Yıldız said that if environmentalists in Turkey are “sincere” about the projects within the country, they should show the same sensitivity to the Metsamor nuclear power plant in Armenia, which is 16 km away from the Turkish border and the province of Iğdır.
“I do not understand not showing the same sensitivity for the Metsamor nuclear power plant that environmentalists showed, for example, on the pretext of some trees in Taksim,” he said, referring to the Gezi Park protests of summer 2013.
“Let’s hold an environmental march all together against the Metsamor power plant in Iğdır,” Yıldız added.
The Metsamor nuclear power plant was built in the 1970s when Armenia was part of the Soviet Union. It currently supplies around 40 percent of Armenia’s energy needs.
Yerevan extended the life of the ageing nuclear power plant in 2013 until 2026. It had been scheduled to be shut down on its original closing date of 2016.
“A nuclear power plant cannot be operated so close to us just because of energy needs. We made the necessary initiatives about the issue, but Armenia’s defense is ‘If this nuclear power plant stops we will be left without electricity.’ I think there are definitely other solutions,” Yıldız said.
Before the decision to extend facilities in the plant, Armenia had reached an agreement with Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom to help keep the plant running. According to the agreement, Rosatom is responsible for the plant’s general repair, changing of equipment, maintenance, and training of the employees.
The European Union has repeatedly called for the plant to be closed down, arguing that it poses a threat to the region. Turkey and Azerbaijan object to the power plant on the grounds that it does not meet international security standards.
The plant was closed in 1988, during the Soviet era, after a devastating earthquake centered on the northern Armenian city of Gyumri killed around 25,000 people. Metsamor eventually resumed operations in 1995.