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Friday, May 11,2012

Global Nuclear Retreat? Armenia, Others Aim to Keep Plants Alive

photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

While Japan is now trying to run its economy without nuclear energy for the first time since 1970, the post-Fukushima world's continued dependence on atomic power is probably best illustrated on the other side of Asia.

Armenia is vowing to keep its one nuclear reactor running, despite international pressure to close the 32-year-old Soviet-designed plant, which sits in a broad seismic zone that stretches from Turkey to the Arabian Sea. One of the world's last remaining nuclear reactors without a primary containment structure, Metsamor is now slated to continue operating for as long as four years beyond its original 2016 retirement date. Armenia has postponed shutdown until a delayed new reactor comes online, no earlier than 2019 or 2020.

The April decision comes at a pivotal time for nuclear energy. Some nations are backing away from nuclear power in the wake of last year's earthquake-and-tsunami-triggered Fukushima Daiichi accident. Nowhere is that more apparent than in Japan itself, where a series of local decisions led to the shutdown, as of this past weekend, of all 54 reactors, once the source of one-third of the nation's power. Germany and Switzerland have set timetables for phasing out their nuclear plants. And France, which derives 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, has elected a new president, Socialist Francois Hollande, who favors reduced nuclear dependence and closure of the nation's oldest reactor, Fessenheim, located in a seismic zone on the Rhine River.


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