By Atom Markarian
The nuclear power station in Metsamor, which provides nearly half of Armenia’s electricity, is being refuelled and will likely be reactivated early next month, Energy Minister Karen Galustian announced on Thursday. The country’s chief energy official also saw little cause for worry over a reduction in supplies of Russian natural gas to Armenia.
“I can officially state that fresh nuclear fuel has already been delivered to Armenia and refuelling is underway,” Galustian told journalists. “We hope that the nuclear plant will be back in operation during the first ten days of November.”
Metsamor’s only operational reactor was halted in July for planned maintenance and partial refuelling. The plant was due to resume work by the end of August. But the reactivation has been held up by serious difficulties which face the cash-strapped Armenian government seeking to raise $13 million to pay for the fuel. It was shipped by air after a $4 million advance paid by Yerevan from a special privatization fund.
The delay forced the government to nearly double daily imports of Russian gas to make up for the electricity shortfall. Russian gas exporter ITERA said on Wednesday it will start “gradually” reducing gas supplies to Georgia and Armenia the next day due to their debts. ITERA puts the total Armenian debt at $36.9 million.
Galustian said Armenia owes the Russians only $7.2 million in cash. He said the debt, incurred by the extra deliveries since August, will be cleared by the end of this month. The rest of the overall debt, the total amount of which he did not disclose, is to be repaid in the form of various commodities.
The minister assured that the cut in the gas supplies will not lead to power shortages, saying that the amount of gas stored in underground reservoirs is enough to keep up power generation in thermal plants until Metsamor’s launch.