By Atom Markarian
The Armenian government and RAO Unified Energy Systems (UES) formalized on Thursday the handover of the debt-ridden nuclear power station at Metsamor to the Russia’s power monopoly for a period of five years.
The deal, which will clear Metsamor’s $40 million debts to Russian nuclear suppliers, was signed in Yerevan by Energy Minister Armen Movsian and UES vice-chairman Andrei Rapoport. The Russians will primarily be responsible for the plant’s financial management and operational safety. As part of the arrangement, they will also own five Armenian hydro-electric plants.
Movsisian said the government will get 75 percent of Metsamor’s future profits. In addition, he said, UES will ensure stable fuel supplies to the nuclear facility that meets nearly 40 percent of Armenia’s energy needs.
The deal, finalized last spring, follows UES’s surprise acquisition of the power distribution network of the Georgian capital Tbilisi which has been suffering from a serious energy crisis. Rapoport was quick to announce that his company will soon start supplies of electricity to its Georgian subsidiary generated by Metsamor and the Hrazdan thermal power plant, the largest in Armenia. UES became the owner of the Hrazdan plant as a result of a separate equities-for-debt deal signed by the Armenian and Rusisan governments late last year.
“We believe that this supply scheme will work for a fairly long time,” Rapoport told reporters at the signing ceremony.
He also acknowledged that Armenian electricity will be exported to neighboring Turkey as well via Georgia. “We have big plans,” he said. “I believe that we will be exporting all of this. And not only to Turkey.”
The UES executive further dismissed the European Union’s insistence on Metsamor’s closure in the coming years. EU experts believe that the plant’s sole operational reactor does not meet modern safety standards. The Armenian government, however, says that Metsamor’s safety has been considerably upgraded in recent years and that it will be decommissioned only after the impoverished country finds an alternative source of cheap energy.
“The EU is much more demanding towards others than itself,” Rapoport said bluntly.
The Metsamor deal leaves the state-owned UES in control of more than 80 percent of Armenia’s power generating capacities.
(Photolur photo: Rapoport, left, and Movsisian shaking hands after signing the agreement.)