By Shakeh Avoyan
The sole operating reactor of Armenia’s Metsamor nuclear plant was briefly switched off at the weekend after a short-circuit on a nearby high-voltage transmission line, its chief manager revealed on Tuesday.
Gagik Markosian told RFE/RL that the emergency, the second of its kind in less than a year, caused Metsamor’s automated safety system to disconnect the facility from the national power grid and bring its light-water reactor to a halt. He said it was reactivated about 24 hours later on Sunday.
Markosian was quick to downplay the significance of the emergency shutdown. “This should not be considered an accident or a breakdown. The nuclear station is operating in a normal and safe regime,” he said.
Metsamor’s Soviet-era reactor, regarded as accident-prone by the United States and the European Union, was already disabled in similar circumstances as recently as last April. Armenian energy officials blamed the urgent measure on “dangerous” voltage fluctuations on a power line connected to Iran. The plant was running out of nuclear fuel at the time and was therefore not immediately brought back on line.
Markosian said Metsamor, which meets nearly half of Armenia’s electricity needs, will be halted for planned repairs and refueling this summer. The process will take at least two months, he added.