By Shakeh Avoyan
The nuclear power station at Metsamor was reactivated on Tuesday following a longer-than-expected stoppage that has meant millions of dollars in additional costs for Armenia’s energy sector.
Officials said the plant’s only functioning reactor was re-launched shortly after midnight and was already supplying electricity to the Hayenergo national power late in the afternoon.
The reactivation took place without a planned partial refueling of the Soviet-era facility in accordance with a decision made by the Armenian government following its failure to secure fresh nuclear fuel from Russia. Russian nuclear energy firms have demanded that Yerevan repay $32 million in outstanding debts for previous fuel supplies.
Under an agreement finalized during President Robert Kocharian’s visit to Moscow last week, Russia’s RAO UES power utility will assume the debt in exchange for winning control of Metsamor’s financial operations. The deal is expected to be signed in Yerevan early next month.
Armenian officials now hope that Russian fuel will reach Armenia by late April. Metsamor’s director, Gagik Markosian, told RFE/RL that the plant can produce energy for at least two consecutive months.
Metsamor’s reactivation, carried out in the presence of international atomic energy experts, will also allow Armenia to avoid severe power shortages that could have resulted from the disruption of Russian natural gas supplies last week. An explosion on a gas pipeline in the Russian North Caucasus has left Armenia and Georgia without the vital fuel that generates a large part of their electricity. It is still not clear when the damaged section of the pipeline will be restored.
“This should not be considered an emergency reactivation just because it happened after the pipeline accident,” Markosian said. “It was a pure coincidence.”
He also said that the Metsamor staff have used the three-month stoppage to conduct regular maintenance and improve the plant’s safety.