By Atom Markarian
The Armenian authorities have postponed by one week the planned temporary shutdown of the Metsamor nuclear power station, saying that they need more time to prepare it for refueling.
The plant’s Soviet-era reactor was due to be brought to a halt on Friday for regular maintenance and a partial replacement of its Russian nuclear fuel. It was due to resume power generation 45 days later.
But as Metsamor’s managing director, Gagik Markosian, told RFE/RL on Saturday, the Energy Ministry and the plant administration have decided to shut down the vital nuclear facility on October 11. He said the delay will allow them to conduct a “better preparation” for the refueling process.
Markosian refuted some press reports attributing the delay to renewed wage arrears among the Metsamor personnel. “This is a malevolent gossip,” he said.
Last week, the Armenian government approved urgent measures designed to raise funds to pay for a $6.7 million purchase of fresh Russian nuclear fuel and repay Metsamor’s $32 million debt to the Rosenergoatom nuclear operator for past fuel deliveries. Under an agreement reached with Rosenergoatom, the Russians will receive half of $77.4 million in anticipated proceeds from Armenian electricity exports. The government had to mortgage several hydroelectric power plants as a financial guarantee of the deal.
The Metsamor plant provides approximately 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity.