More than 140 workers of the nuclear power station at Metsamor have threatened to quit their jobs if their wages are not raised by the plant administration, officials in Yerevan confirmed on Friday.
The Metsamor director, Ashot Markosian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that each of them has sent him separate letters containing such threats.
Markosian would not say whether the demands will be accepted or rejected. He said only that the plant currently lacks the funds needed for a pay rise.
According to Markosian’s estimates, the average monthly wage of the applicants is 277,500 drams ($750), more than twice higher than the nationwide average.
Metsamor, which generates about 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity, employs more than 1,700 people. They earn between 145,000 and 443,000 drams a month.
Asked how important the 143 employees threatening to quit are to the plant’s day-to-day operations, Markosian said, “There are no unimportant people at the nuclear plant. All of our employees can affect its safe exploitation in one way or another.”
Both Markosian and the Armenian Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources insisted that the extraordinary threats have not affected Metsamor’s operational safety. “Even for those applicants, it’s still business as usual,” the ministry spokeswoman, Lusine Harutiunian, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Metsamor’s sole functioning reactor was brought to a halt on September 5 for regular prophylactic repairs and partial refueling. It is due to be relaunched by the end of October.
The Armenian government has pledged to decommission the plant by 2017, in time for the construction of a new and more powerful nuclear facility. Work on that ambitious project was supposed to start in 2012.
However, officials said last year that the construction could be delayed by several years, suggesting that the existing reactor will function longer than planned.
International nuclear safety experts working under the aegis of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspected Metsamor in late May. They concluded that the plant poses an “acceptable” level of risk to the environment and can, in principle, operate beyond its design life span.