The Armenian nuclear power plant is situated close to the Medzamor town 30 km from the capital of Armenia Yerevan. The power plant consists of two units both of the VVER 440 type. After the Spitak earthquake in December 1988 the power plant was shut down in 1989, as a precautionary measure. Faced with an acute energy crisis, Armenia resumed operation at unit 2 of Medzamor NPP during late 1995 with the support of IAEA and Russian experts. Reopening the reactor boosted Armenia’s electricity generation by 40% enabling electricity to be supplied around the clock for the first time since Medzamor was closed. The Medzamor Nuclear Power Plant Unit 2 is the only reactor in operation in Armenia. It is referred to as a plant with some design deficiencies and is located in a seismic zone. The Armenian government has repeatedly confirmed its commitment to close this plant within a few years, provided that a secure alternative energy supply will be available. The European Commission expressed its intention to contribute to that fund up to € 100 million; the present situation shows that the contributions to be expected from other donors are not enough to cope with the needs. In 2009 the date of shut down and decommissioning of Medzamor NPP was still pending. In the meanwhile, in 2003, the Armenian authorities signed an agreement with Russia ensuring the provision of fuel from Russia for five years. The International Community has not changed its opinion and continuously requested the closure of Medzamor and Armenian side agreed on the principle of closure.
Current state of affairs in the relevant sector
The Nuclear Regulatory Authority of the Republic of Armenia (ANRA) was established at the end of 1993 as an independent authority reporting directly to the Prime Minister. Previously with the exception of two on-site inspectors belonging to Soviet GAN no regulatory structure and experience existed in Armenia. ANRA responsibilities include the safety and radiation protection aspects at NPP and cover nuclear installations, radioactive sources, transport of radioactive materials, safeguards and physical protection. ANRA is faced with challenges in all sectors and has at the same time to develop the regulatory system with limited staff and limited experience. For the time the regulatory approach and licensing system is essentially based on the former Soviet Union rules and regulations. The nuclear law "On safe utilization of atomic energy for peaceful purposes" was ratified by the Armenian Parliament on the 1st February 1999 and put into force on 1st March 1999. On October the 15th 2002, following a decree of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, the Ministry of Nature Protection has been appointed as the nuclear regulatory authority. Its adoption allowed the system to evolve and ANRA started to create its own pyramidal structure of rules and regulations. ANRA has developed a number of regulations, which are at different stages of review and governmental approval. These regulations concern both the areas of nuclear safety and the use of ionizing radiation.
The specific objectives of the project were as follows:
- To advise ANRA for the review of the national nuclear emergency plan and the preparation of the global emergency exercise;
- To strengthen the foundation and the structure of the regulatory system;
- To develop a national pyramid of regulatory documents and some additional draft regulations or guidelines, depending on the needs;
- To implement adequate training programmes in particular for newcomers;
- To improve the inspection procedures for NPP inspection;
- To assist ANRA in the implementation and further improvement of its new Quality Management System;
- To assist ANRA in the understanding of safety and security of radioactive sources including the issues of orphan sources;
- To support ANRA in NPP safety assessment.
In the frame of the AR/RA/03 project 2 the ANRA was assisted in the development of the licensing procedures that remained to be developed (as 2nd level pyramid) and in review selected documentations on radiation safety:
- “Concept on Formation and Development of National Program for Radioactive Waste Management in Republic of Armenia”,
- “Procedure on Waste Management”,
- “Regulatory requirements for SAR format and content of low and intermediate level radioactive waste near surface storage and disposal facilities”,
- “Procedure for licensing physical persons holding positions and implementing practices important in terms of safety in atomic energy utilization field”,
- “Procedure on qualification check of physical persons holding positions and implementing practices important in terms of safety in atomic energy utilization field”
- “List of Activities and Positions Important in terms of Safety in the Atomic Energy Utilisation Field”
- “Physical protection of nuclear facilities and nuclear materials”,
- Some specific advice and recommendations were formulated, discussed and agreed with the ANRA representatives.
The assistance in the establishment of a periodic (or baseline) inspection programme and in the development of inspection guidelines and procedures has been also provided during this project. Armenian representatives were acquainted with Slovak Nuclear programme and its inspection practices and legislation and Belgian methodology of operational safety assessment in NPP. The two following documents, requested by the terms of reference, were provided by ANRA in September 2007:
- “Baseline inspection programme for complex and special inspections”
- “ Procedure for site inspector to conduct routine inspections at NPP”.
Both of them have been incorporated in the QMS Handbook of ANRA. Among the 23 items subjected to inspection, three items were missing:
- Safety Management process;
- Fuel performance during operation and justification of reloads;
- Training and qualification of operating personnel.
Another area covered by the project was provision of training in PSA applications and training of trainers in order to make them able to deliver basis training to newcomers on nuclear and radiation safety. Basic training in PSA Level 1, with the aim to make ANRA experts more familiar with PSA methodologies, results, applications and regulatory review was provided. The further external support to ANRA in their regulatory review of PSA was recommended. For newcomers training basic training documents in nuclear safety and regulatory control should have been developed.Due to lack of available staff from Armenian side this objective has not been fully met and training documents have not been developed.
Information concerning the development of the SAR (content, schedule, availability for review, state of progress,...) have been presentedand the methodology of review has been discussed The review of the SAR itself is the subject of other tasks in projects of technical support to ANRA.
Due to limited human sources within ANRA, not all planned objectives were fully achieved. It was recommended to increase number of staff members to a level meeting the responsibilities of a competent and independent nuclear regulator based on the requirements of the Nuclear Safety Convention (Art. 7 and 8) and on the new amendment to the Nuclear Law of Armenia, giving additional responsibilities and duties to ANRA.