By Hrach Melkumian
The Metsamor Nuclear power plant will be shut down temporarily on August 1. The plant, which produces 35 percent of Armenia's energy, will be restarted on October 4. Metsamor is temporarily shut down once a year for prophylactic works. This time the reactor will be checked, a procedure that is done every four years.
Gagik Markosian, the director of the plant, told RFE/RL that the state of the metal casing of the reactor will be checked.
"The reactor will be unloaded and we will check the casing of the reactor" An international tender was announced for this work, which was won by the Czech "Skoda" company which will perform the work with its own equipment. "The International Atomic Energy Agency helped us to evaluate the technical needs. And we announced a tender according to those needs," Markosian said.
The purchase of nuclear fuel from Russia has been problematic during the last few years. Armenia had debts for nuclear fuel, which were paid back under the "equities for debt" program. There are no more debts, and since the financial management of Metsamor has passed to the Russian side there are no more delays in purchasing nuclear fuel. "I hope that this year it will be a unique case, the nuclear fuel will already be in storage before the bloc will be stopped " Markosian said.
The EU is implementing the TASIC 2000 program to upgrade the security of the Metsamor power plant. "Besides the planned routine repairs, this year two major security maintenance works will be undertaken. The informational accounting machine of the bloc will be replaced, American aid of $1 million was provided for this purpose. The TACIS program will provide funds to replace the oil switchers worth 500,000 euros ($621,000).”
According to an agreement between Armenia and the EU, Metsamor was supposed to be closed down this year. The EU offered $100 million as compensation. The Armenian authorities, however, argue that this sum is inadequate to secure alternative sources of energy.
The director of the power plant told RFE/RL that these repairs were previously planned, and have nothing to do with any plans to close down the plant. The director also argued that the plant can function for another 12 years.
"I have no doubts that the plant has enough resources to work until 2016," he told RFE/RL.