By Astghik Bedevian
The closure of the nuclear power plant at Metsamor is a precondition for the deepening of Armenia’s links with the European Union under the bloc’s European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) program, Trade and Economic Development Minister Karen Chshmaritian said Tuesday.
Chshmaritian said the matter is included in Armenia’s plan of ENP-related actions which is due to be signed by Armenian and EU officials in Brussels on November 13. The document calls for more political and economic reforms that would entitle Yerevan to a privileged partnership with the 25-nation union.
Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja of Finland, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, and his Armenian counterpart Vartan Oskanian said on October 2 that successful implementation of the action plan would have far-reaching implications. In a joint statement issued after their talks in Yerevan, they said Armenia’s ties with the EU would go “beyond cooperation” and involve a “significant measure of economic integration.”
The decommissioning of Metsamor’s sole reactor has always been high on the agenda of the EU’s dealings with Armenia. The EU believes that the facility is inherently unsafe because of its Soviet design and location in a seismically active zone.
The Armenian authorities dismiss those concerns. They insist that the plant, which meets almost 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity needs, is safe enough to remain operational until 2016. European government seem to have come to terms with this tentative decommissioning date.
Earlier this year the Armenian government announced its intention to replace Metsamor by another, more modern nuclear plant over the next decade and look for foreign investors interested in financing its construction estimated to cost at least $1 billion. U.S. reaction to the extremely ambitious project has been lukewarm, with a senior State Department official suggesting last May that there are “probably better alternatives” to it.
According to Chshmaritian, no EU country has expressed the readiness so far to assist in the project’s implementation.