By Atom Markarian
The outgoing director of the Metsamor nuclear power station, Suren Azatian, revealed on Tuesday new motives behind his decision to step down, pointing to the government’s failure to pay his employees’ back wages.
In an interview with RFE/RL, he claimed that the Armenian energy ministry has not made good on its pledge to start clearing the three-month wage arrears last month.
“I had told my personnel that if [the payment] doesn’t begin by March I will be the first to quit. And that’s what happened,” Azatian said.
Azatian, who has run Metsamor for almost nine years, tendered his resignation on Monday, saying that he is “very tired” and wants to retire after many years of “tense” work in the atomic energy sector. He said they were no other reasons for the move.
But he claimed the next day that the problem of the wage arrears, which nearly caused a strike at Metsamor last summer, did play a role in his decision. “I could barely restrain my people,” he explained. “I told them that the new minister [of energy] will solve the problem. At least, he promised me that.”
The current minister, Armen Movsisian, took over late last year, promising to reduce the energy sector’s huge financial losses and debts. Metsamor alone is owed more than $130 million by Hayenergo, the national power grid. Azatian said its repayment will solve all of the plant’s financial problems.
Metsamor’s sole operating reactor, brought to a halt in July for refueling, was inactive for more than four months, much longer than expected. The sector incurred more than $5 million in losses as a result.
Finance and Economy Minister Vartan Khachatrian admitted last month that the government has yet to find $13 million to buy fresh nuclear fuel for Metsamor later this year.