Dr. Vahe Kharazyan explaining the design, mechanical and human errors that led to the most catastrophic accidents in the 60-year history of civilian nuclear power generation.

YEREVAN–A seminar exploring the nuclear disasters at Chernobyl, Fukushima and Three-Mile Island was held at the American University of Armenia on Tuesday, February 12.

The event, organized by the College of Science and Engineering and the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment, reviewed the sequence of critical events leading up to the accidents at each plant, the countermeasures taken, their effectiveness, and the consequences of the public’s exposure to radiation.

“Armenia generates 40% of its electricity using nuclear power, a share that is expected to remain if not grow with the construction of a proposed new nuclear power plant,” said Alen Amirkhanian, Interim Director of the AUA Acopian Center for the Environment. “At AUA, we see it as a responsibility to engage our students and the community at large to discuss both the advantages and risks of such an energy source.”

The seminar was be led Dr. Vahe Kharazyan, head of the Instrumentation and Control Department at the Yerevan Combined Cycle Power Plant (Yerevan JEK).

Kharazyan, who has been working in Armenia’s energy industry for more than five years as an engineer and consultant, briefly discussed the technologies employed in Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three-Mile Island nuclear power plants.

For each of these catastrophic accidents, Dr. Kharazyan explained the series of events that led to disasters. In the case of Three-Mile Island and particularly Chernobyl, design shortcomings were severely complicated by operator and management errors.

In case of Fukushima, operator error did not play a part. The walls built to act as tsunami barriers were 5.7 meters tall whereas the actual tsunami waves that hit the plant on March 11, 2011 were 14 meters tall. The force of the waves knocked the backup system out of operation.

Kharazyan concluded the seminar by highlighting some of the policy changes that were made or are likely to be made in response to these nuclear disasters.

Dr. Kharazyan received his PhD in Cogeneration from the Energy Research Institute of Armenia and an MS degree in Science and Technology Policy from the University of Minnesota.

He has been actively involved with the PA Consulting Group in the preparation for the environmental impact assessment of the new nuclear power plant proposed for Armenia. Dr. Kharazyan is also a regular guest lecturer at the AUA course IE352 (Decision Making Tools for Energy).

In November of last year, AUA had organized a seminar on the environmental impact assessment prepared by the Armenian government for the proposed new nuclear power plant. Click here for more details on the November seminar.

The American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia. Founded in 1991, AUA is affiliated with the University of California. Through teaching, research, and public service, AUA serves Armenia and the region by supplying high-quality, graduate and undergraduate education, encouraging civic engagement, and promoting democratic values.

The AUA is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, 985 Atlantic Avenue, #100, Alameda, CA 94501, 510-748-9001.