ARMENIAS ENERGY SECURITY: MAIN ACHIEVEMENTS AND CHALLENGES

Sevak SARUKHANIAN


Sevak Sarukhanian, Ph.D. (Political Science), Deputy Director of the Noravank Scientific-Educational Foundation (Erevan, Armenia)


Introduction

After the accident at the Fukusima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, Armenias energy industry found itself in the center of attention not only of its own country, but also, to some extent, of the world community. This interest was largely aroused by the need to re-examine the attitude toward nuclear power safety. In their comments about Armenias Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant, local and international experts reminded us of two important facts:

1. About the energy crisis at the beginning of the 1990s caused by the blockade of Armenia and the closing down of the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant in 1989.

2. About the plans to close down the restarted Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant in 2016.

The accident in Japan gave reason to think about the most important questions of Armenias energy security: What is the level of the countrys energy security? How does closing the existing nuclear power plant affect the countrys energy security? Will a new nuclear power plant be built?

In this article, we will discuss precisely these questions, focusing particular attention on the political and economic aspects of the problem.

The State of the Armenian Energy Industry

Since the country acquired its independence, energy security has become one of the main goals of Armenias sustainable development. What is more, this sphere occupies a key place in the countrys national security system. The conflict that began around Nagorno-Karabakh led to a halt in energy resource deliveries (heating oil and natural gas) through the territory of Azerbaijan. Since the beginning of the 1990s, these resources could only be delivered through Georgia, which was experiencing a political crisis.

But in 1989, the Council of Ministers of the Armenian S.S.R. made a decision (mainly under pressure from the public) to close down the two active energy units of the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant, which led to a structural change in the energy industry. The thermal power plants became largely responsible for producing electricity. In conditions of stable heating oil deliveries from different parts of the Soviet Union, Armenias two large thermal power plants, Razdan and Erevan, ensured the stability of the countrys energy system.

However, when deliveries of heating oil and natural gas through Azerbaijan were halted and rail communication linking Russia to Georgia and Armenia and passing through Abkhazia stopped, Armenias energy system collapsed. This resulted in the 1992-1994 energy crisis; the country was able to produce only 10-15% of the electric power needed by the economy and population.

In the context of the energy crisis, rationalism and pragmatism, which had been lost during the struggle for independence, again came into play during the adoption of.


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