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Armenian Nuclear Plant Set For Another Refueling

By Shakeh Avoyan

The nuclear power station at Metsamor, Armenia’s single biggest source of energy, will be brought to a halt on October 1 for a partial refueling and regular repairs, its executive director said on Monday.

Gagik Markosian told RFE/RL that the plant will replace one third of its operating fuel and will again be operational by the end of November. “The fuel is not yet at the station but we hope it will arrive before the stoppage,” he said, adding that a 50 percent advancement payment for its delivery from Russia has already been made.

In Markosian’s words, the repairs will center on one of the plant’s turbo generators. “Parallel to the planned repairs and refueling we will also introduce a number of new major security systems,” he said, listing upgraded systems of “radioactive monitoring” and chemical analysis of light water used by Metsamor’s sole Soviet-built reactor. He said the additional safety work will mainly be funded by the European Union that has contributed 3 million euros ($3.7 million) for that purpose.

Over the past decade the EU and the United States have each provided tens of millions dollars worth of financial and technical assistance designed to boost Metsamor’s safety. They have at the same time been pressing for the rapid closure of the facility, saying that it is located in a seismically active area and that its reactor is inherently flawed.

The Armenian government has resisted the pressure and intends to keep the plant operational for at least ten more years. Officials in Yerevan continue to stress the fact that it meets nearly 40 percent of Armenia’s energy needs.

According to Markosian, Metsamor will have generated about 2 billion kilowatt/hours of electricity before October 1, or as much as it produced last year. He also said that the plant’s financial situation has improved dramatically ever since it was put under the financial control of Russia’s Unified Energy Systems (UES) group in 2003. UES took over Metsamor’s finances and became the owner of several Armenian hydro-electric plants in exchange for repaying the nuclear plant’s $40 million debt to Russian fuel suppliers.

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