Saturday, November 03, 2018

Metsamor 1976

Metsamor nuclear power plant, 1976
Metsamor nuclear power plant is in Armenia within 16 km of Turkish border and almost 25 km from Yerevan. It is the VVER-440 type, 2x408 mwe. Unit 1 in 1976, 2nd unit entered into operation in 1980. The plant worked for many years. Finally, their economic life is over.
Your author was in Metsamor in 1976, within the framework of the United Nations Development Program, Unido. He was in Moscow for 3-month training. There were 40 young engineers from Africa, South America and Far East countries who joined the program. People from 40 different countries, 40 different cultures, gathered together.
In the last month of their stay in Moscow, the program manager said, "Get prepared, we have a very new nuclear power plant, we are conducting a trial operation, and we shall visit there". We had an airplane flight from Moscow to Yerevan in a low-altitude 4-hour flight with a propeller. How we did it, how the ears and body endured that noise. Finally we landed at airport, we settled in the hotel of Tsardom period. From our hotel room, the mountain of Ararat appeared with all its glory, on the other side of the border.

The next morning we went to the Metzamor nuclear power plant. Metsamore sounded like a very super project at that time.
They invited us to the control room, the illuminated dashboards, a lot of lamps on the walls, TV sets, all staff dressed in protective white overalls. With a few pounds of nuclear fuel, they could supply almost all of the electricity demand of Armenia.
In my Ankara METU University education, we took course on nuclear in the senior year, but Metsamor seemed to be like a science fiction in a very distant future. Then the trip was over, the program was over. We returned home, on one side of our minds that week Metzamor nuclear power plant had remained. We didn't even go near the nucleus building, we just walked into the remote control room, we saw the remote 4-air cooling towers.
Most of the Russian staff who introduced us to the power station were very cool. We were seeing them at a very high level beside we, the stone age technology engineers, listened to what they told us like fairy tales.
The lamps in the control room, the flow charts on the wall, a few black and white TV's, they sound very primitive very simple today. We have lots of sophisticated things now in the control rooms of our local power plants.
Then years past, Metsamor power plant is now the oldest from the former Soviet period, in terms security, it is the poorest and lowest level power plant. One unit is already closed, the other one is forced to work. Plant is in the high risk earthquake zone. The waste disposal is unclear, there is no waste agreement, emergency evacuation plans are not clear. Main worn out pressure parts are outdated, they have to be changed, there is no money. The nuclear plant is in terrible condition we all know.
The Metsamor power plant VVER-440 is the same as the Chernobyl power plant which has caused technological disaster in Ukraine. There is no concrete concrete around the nuclear core. Nuclear Core is in graphite coating. 30-year before the core melting of the accident was not foreseen so concrete plus steel shields had no application.
Although the nuclear plant is still in operation, the nucleus is like a bomb. Anything can go wrong any time, and as a result of the core melting Chernobyl type radioactive material may start to crack. If there is no explosion, burning, smoke, and soil begin to radiation. Most of them is plutonium. The spread of radiation takes tens of thousands of years after half the power. Plant requires more strictly measures to control.
Russians say, "Let's demolish the existing plant completely, let's construct a new power plant at 1000 MWe". But Local people no longer accept it easily. Everyone is appealing, most of the European community is appealing, European Union tied Armenia and Georgia somehow to themselves, provided them easy visa facilitation.
For the renewal and upgrading of the Metsamor nuclear power plant, European Union has prepared a financing program of € 100m. This figure has been raised to 200m € in proportion to the gravity of the situation, but the situation is very difficult and very expensive to improve.
In 1976, we asked the managers of the plant,
"why did you build a nuclear power plant here?"
They replied,
"There is no natural resources, there is insufficient hydraulic power plant",
Now they have the most dangerous nuclear power plant in the world today. Moreover, Metsamore is in earthquake zone. They have seen earthquakes of 7-9 richter scale, three times in the last century,
the last earthquake line is passing from a distance of 75km away"
The International Atomic Energy Agency has limited measures to shut down this plant. A nuclear threat may break out at any moment. In order to shut down this plant completely, all countries need to assist and apply pressure. It is is only 16km away from Turkish eastern border. Turkish voice does not come out, neighboring Azerbaijanis are screaming at every platform, whereas most of us need to appeal.
In an unfavorable situation, we are all most affected.
On the other hand, we have to reconsider Akkuyu nuclear project with 40-year Metsamor experience. Today, against the current cheaper unit electricity prices of the renewable energy sources, Akkuyu with 15-year purchase guaranteed price of 12.35 US cents per kwh price is not economical any more, the situation looks serious.
Nuclear waste control, emergency evacuation plans, earthquake analysis, and very hot Mediterranean cooling water thermodynamic problems must be reviewed repeatedly.
Prinkipo, 2- November 2018


Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of ODTÜ Alumni and Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.


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