By Shakeh Avoyan
The nuclear power station at Metsamor, which meets nearly 40 percent of Armenia’s energy needs, was reactivated on Monday more than two months after its sole reactor was stopped for refueling and regular capital repairs. The plant’s director, Gagik Markosian, told RFE/RL that it will resume supplies to the national power grid on Tuesday.
Markosian said the capital repairs have further improved the safety of Metsamor’s Soviet-designed reactor built in 1979. He said the work, carried out once in four years, has involved the installation of new equipment provided by the United States and the European Union, estimating their cost at “millions of dollars.”
According to Markosian, the two-month period has also been used for a close inspection of the reactor core conducted by specialists from Skoda, a Czech engineering firm chosen in an international tender. They found it in good condition, he added.
The light-water reactor was brought to a halt on July 30 shortly after the delivery of a new batch of Russian nuclear worth $12 million. It replaced approximately one third of Metsamor’s previously loaded fuel and should keep the facility operational for at least one year.
Metsamor was placed under the financial management of Russia’s RAO Unified Energy Systems utility last year in payment for its $40 million outstanding debts to Russian fuel suppliers.
The plant resumed power generation despite last month’s closure of Russia’s border with Georgia which disrupted the delivery of a special lubricant used in the process. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian warned as recently as Wednesday that this could delay the planned reactivation.
Markosian revealed, however, that the Metsamor management found another Russian supplier and imported the substance by air.
The U.S. and the EU continue to provide substantial financial and technical assistance to the plant despite their long-standing calls for its closure on safety grounds. The Armenian government says it is safe enough to operate for another decade.