Baku Threatens Armenia's Metsamor Nuclear Plant

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As military conflict between neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan escalated to levels not seen in over a decade, Baku this week threatened to destroy Armenia's Metsamor nuclear power plant. "The Armenian side mustn't forget that the most advanced missile systems our army has are capable of launching a precision strike on the Metsamor nuclear power plant, and that would be a huge tragedy for Armenia," Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman Vagif Dargyakhly said in a Jul. 16 statement. Metsamor had been home to two 376 megawatt pressurized water reactors, but after a devastating 6.8 magnitude earthquake in December 1988 Unit 1 was permanently shuttered, whereas Unit 2 was restarted in 1995 and is currently slated for a life extension through 2040 (NIW Aug.3'18). The Azeri threats against the plant "qualify" as a crime against humanity and "undermine regional security," Armenian President Armen Sarkissian said in a Jul. 16 tweet. "Such threats are an explicit demonstration of state terrorism and genocidal intent of Azerbaijan," Armenia's foreign ministry added the same day. Metsamor's functional reactor is actually in the middle of an outage, while engineers from Rosatom subsidiary Atomenergoremont work to modernize the plant. A Jul. 12 gubernatorial election for Japan's Kagoshima prefecture brought bad tidings to conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Kyushu Electric Power Co., and to nuclear power advocates. LDP-backed incumbent Governor Satoshi Mitazono was defeated by Koichi Shiota, 54, an independent former director of the prefecture's economic development bureau. Shiota won with 34% of nearly 1.3 million valid votes, compared to 30% for the Mitazono, according to NHK. In his campaign policy manifesto, the governor-elect said he would freeze the proposed construction of a third unit at Kyushu Electric's Sendai nuclear power plant and complete a strict review of plant emergency response and evacuation plans. Shiota also promised a prefectural referendum on whether to approve an expected request for 20-year life extensions for Sendai's two operating 846 MW reactors. These units were halted earlier this year after Kyushu failed to complete "specific severe accident" safety installations within the five-year limit required by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority since their restarts (NIW Jan.3'20). As the Czech cabinet meets next week to review proposed contracts with state-owned Cez for the country's planned nuclear newbuild program, Prague may launch a process to select a reactor vendor within the next six months. "The tender is planned to be issued by the end of this year, or by January next year," Jaroslav Mil, the government official tasked since January 2019 with overseeing the newbuild program, told Energy Intelligence in an exclusive interview (related). "Many things will be in the meantime approved and implemented." The government plans to support the newbuild program via a loan to the Cez-owned project company, and a long-term offtake contract for output from the newbuild (related). Prague hopes that "the winner of the tender will be announced at the same time that we sign the offtake contract between state and investor [the project company]. We will get the very precise idea of the potential cost, and then we can finish the final calculations and announce the production costs" based on projected capital, operating and financial costs.

Elections, Security Risk , Nuclear, Nuclear Fuel
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