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

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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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