Fearing impact from a possible accident from an aged nuclear power plant in neighboring Armenia, residents of a border village held a drill on Wednesday coordinated by the local governorate.
As part of the drill, medical rescue teams and gendarme troops evacuated residents of Orta Alican, one of eight villages of the eastern province of Iğdır, which are located in close proximity of Metsamor. It is the first comprehensive drill of its kind in the region against the danger the plant poses.
“Survivors” of the nuclear accident were taken to a tent camp set up in central Iğdır by crews and they were “decontaminated.” Iğdır Gov. Enver Ünlü said it was their responsibility to conduct such a drill against “a disaster that might happen.”
He said Metsamor was assessed as one of the world’s most dangerous nuclear plants by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and according to data by European Union.
Metsamor is located some 16 kilometers away from central Iğdır and is Armenia’s only nuclear power plant and produces more than a third of the country’s electricity. The European Union has repeatedly called on Armenia to shut down the aging plant, citing security concerns. Instead, Armenia decided to extend the plant’s operations until 2026.
Following an earthquake in 1988, Metsamor was closed. However, in spite of widespread international protests, it was reactivated in 1995. Armenia earlier rejected the EU’s call to shut down Metsamor in exchange for 200 million euros to help meet the country’s energy needs.
Turkey, which has not had diplomatic relations with Armenia since the 1990s over the occupation of Azerbaijan’s Nagorno Karabakh, has urged Armenia to shut down the plant due to the imminent danger the outdated plant posed to Turkey. It sent an official appeal to the IAEA five years ago concerning the shutdown of the plant. IAEA and Armenian experts had agreed that the plant could remain operational until 2016 before Armenia decided to extend its lifespan to 2026.