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Azerbaijan to build first nuclear power plant

03 August 2008

Nuclear power and the desire to become energy self-sufficient are increasing in popularity as a result of fears over fuel supply and rising costs. The need for a renewable energy source is more important than ever. Azerbaijan is planning to construct a 10-15 megawatt nuclear reactor 15 kilometres north of Baku, following an agreement from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA feasibility study will take place between 2009 and 2011 before a final decision is made.

Azerbaijan to build first nuclear power plantAzerbaijan to build first nuclear power plant
Azerbaijan to build first nuclear power plantAzerbaijan to build first nuclear power plant

The reactor will be used for research purposes by the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Radiation Problems. Research will specifically focus on physics, nuclear chemistry, to find new materials, to modify the properties of materials and to process new short-lived isotopes for medicine. Furthermore, new personnel will be trained there.

The Chernobyl disaster in 1985 has resulted in ecologists having conflicting views over the construction of new power plants.

The proximity of the plant to Baku is a major cause for concern, the reactor will be situated near the Ceyranbatan resevoir, the main water supply for Baku’s population of approximately 2 million. Additionally, two thirds of Azerbaijan is located in an earthquake prone zone. The risks are heightened further as Azerbaijan lacks nuclear energy specialists, as well as techniques to process nuclear waste.

However, the Istanbul Technical University contains a similar reactor and has encountered no problems to date. Moreover, the reactor is unlikely to have an environmental impact as all waste is being taken out of Azerbaijan and new fuel will be delivered there.

It is important that all potential risks are minimised. It is vital for personnel to be in place who can react efficiently. The IAEA appears willing to get involved in training specialists, but how effective can short-term training be?

The Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev ordered the establishment of the State Agency on Control of Nuclear and Radiation Activities under the Ministry of Emergency Situations. The agency will be responsible for ensuring that the reactor’s activities meet international standards, according to the government.

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