YEREVAN, (AFP) - Armenia's only nuclear power station will shut down at the end of September for regular maintenance and refueling, the energy ministry's spokeswoman said late Wednesday.
One-third of the station's fuel, worth some eight million dollars (euros), would be replaced in the course of the operation, Lusine Harutiunian said.
The plant, located in Metsamor some 30 kilometres (20 miles) west of Yerevan, was built between 1977 and 1980 and comprises two VVER-440 reactors. The plant was shut down shortly after a 1988 earthquake, but this provoked a severe energy crisis and the government restarted one of the power units in November 1995.
According to Armenia's agreement with the European Union, the Metsamor station, seen as potentially dangerous because of its location in an earthquake zone, is set to be shut down by 2004, but there are concerns that the country may not now honour that commitment.
Armenia has no fossil fuel of its own, and closing Metsamor would make it reliant on potentially unreliable gas imports from Russia through a pipeline that would have to cross Georgia. The plant, which Russian specialists have said can guarantee accident-free operation until 2016, produces 40 percent of Armenia's power.