Russia proposes building nuclear power station in Azerbaijan – many ask why
Russian state corporation Rosatom has proposed the Azerbaijani government the idea of building an atomic power station in the country.
Rosatom says that Azerbaijan will thus save on gas and be able to increase its exports abroad.
There has been no official response to the proposal yet. Meanwhile, experts and social media users are arguing whether the country needs a nuclear power plant or not.
Old new news
Currently Azerbaijan receives 90% of its electricity by burning gas at thermal power plants (TPPs). The remaining 10% comes from hydroelectric power plants (HPPs).
[pullquote align=”right”]“Among other things, the construction of a Russian nuclear power plant in Azerbaijan makes Azerbaijan dependent on Russia”[/pullquote]
The construction of nuclear power plants in Azerbaijan was spoken of back in Soviet times. Even a place for one was chosen near Baku and a foundation was laid – but after the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986, these plans were abandoned.
Now, Russia is inviting Azerbaijan to think about nuclear power plants again, noting that the country’s electricity consumption in 2018 increased by 14%.
The construction of a nuclear power plant will cost Azerbaijan about $10 billion, Bulat Nigmatulin, the former deputy minister of nuclear energy, says.
Nigmatulin says though the sum is high, the money can be borrowed from Russia itself.
“Russia for these purposes can provide a loan for 3-4 years, and you can easily repay it by exporting your energy resources. In general, all expenses for the construction of the station will be paid off in 10-12 years.”
Advantages and disadvantages
The main advantage of nuclear power plants over thermal power plants is that they are practically independent of fuel sources (oil, gas, coal). Therefore, nuclear power plants are suitable for providing electricity to countries where there is not enough fuel or it is too expensive.
Hydroelectric power stations, which depend on the water level in rivers and other vagaries of nature, cannot compete with nuclear power plants and thermal power plants.
It is also believed that nuclear power plants pollute nature less.
The main disadvantage of nuclear power plants is that they are very dangerous. Illustrative examples are the explosions in Chernobyl and Fukushima. And the profitability of nuclear power plants is also a question that raises doubts among experts.
Commentary: dangerous and expensive?
Oil and gas energy expert Ilham Shaban says that nuclear energy is too expensive:
“But you still have to consider that it will take at least about seven years to train staff. What is this for? Just in order to become one of the countries that use nuclear energy?”
There are 31 such countries in the world. Italy left this list back in 1990, scared after the Chernobyl tragedy. Belgium, Germany, Spain and some other countries also intend to abandon nuclear energy in the future.
Many local experts believe this nuclear power plant is another reason invented by Russia in order to earn money on Azerbaijan and tie it to itself.
Political columnist JAMnews Shahin Rzayev:
“It seems Putin needs money again. Time after time, Russia is selling military equipment to Azerbaijan at a clearly overpriced price. Moreover, everyone is sure in advance that we will not use this equipment. But they are forced to buy it, because it is such an offer that it is impossible to refuse.
And the proposal to build a nuclear power plant in Azerbaijan for the money of our taxpayers is similar. Among other things, the construction of a Russian nuclear power plant in Azerbaijan makes Azerbaijan dependent on Russia.
We do not have enough specialists to service this station, there are no deposits of uranium and other nuclear fuel, as well as equipment for its enrichment. All this will have to be taken from Russia in order to somehow recoup the construction costs.
“In addition, the existence of nuclear power plants near the capital makes the country very vulnerable militarily. Then you have to buy new anti-aircraft missile systems, again Russian-made, to protect the station from possible attacks. In general, Azerbaijan should by no means agree to such a proposal. If we need additional electricity, we can buy it from Russia or Iran.”
But conflict expert Avaz Hasanov believes that one cannot rely only on oil and gas, and the presence of nuclear power plants in the country will not hinder Azerbaijan.