By Emil Danielyan
The top U.S. government official in charge of nuclear safety visited Armenia this week for talks with government officials in Yerevan that focused on the planned construction of a new Armenian nuclear plant, it emerged on Wednesday.
The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan said U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Peter Lyons met senior Armenian officials Monday and Tuesday to “familiarize himself with the status of the nuclear power plant at Metsamor and Armenia’s plans for building a new power plant to replace the Metsamor facility.”
“Dr. Lyons also explored with Armenian officials ways that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can help Armenia to develop the regulatory infrastructure needed in order to license a new nuclear power plant,” the embassy said in a statement.
The statement added that his interlocutors included unnamed officials from the Armenian ministries of energy, foreign affairs and environment as well as the state Nuclear Regulatory Agency. With Armenian government sources issuing no statements about the talks, it was not clear if Energy Minister Armen Movsisian was among them.
“There may have been a meeting with Mr. Movsisian,” a spokeswoman for the Armenian Energy Ministry told RFE/RL. She could not give any details of the talks.
Lyons’s visit to Yerevan underscored U.S. support for the ambitious idea of replacing the Metsamor plant by a new nuclear facility meeting modern safety standards. The Armenian government hopes that it will be built by 2016, in time for the planned decommissioning of Metsamor’s sole operating reactor which generates about 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity.
The U.S. government allocated last November $2 million for the first feasibility studies on the project to be jointly conducted by Armenian and U.S. atomic energy experts this year. But U.S. diplomats made it clear that Washington will not fully or partly finance work on the new plant estimated to cost at least $1 billion.