The closure or an essential upgrade of the aging nuclear station in Armenia is one of the key issues in the South Caucasus country’s relations with the European Union. While Armenia that experiences a shortage of energy resources is reluctant to give up atomic energy, international experts call for a new and higher safety standard nuclear facility in a country that is situated on an earthquake fault line.
Concerns about the safety of Armenia’s nuclear power plant
in the event of a natural disaster grew in the wake of a powerful earthquake and a subsequent tsunami that struck Japan in March and also resulted in a major nuclear disaster at one of the local nuclear power plants.
Armenia - French President Nicolas Sarkozy is greeted by his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian at Yerevan airport, 06Oct2011.
Sarkozy, who was in Yerevan on a two-day visit as part of his South Caucasus tour, said on Friday that a group of specialists from France would come to Armenia ‘in a few weeks’ to study the matter and ‘try to assist Armenia in the sphere of atomic energy.’
Late last month, during Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian’s visit to France, some Armenian media reported, quoting official sources, that French involvement in the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Armenia was discussed during the Armenian leader’s meeting with French Prime Minister Francois Fillon in Paris. One Yerevan daily, “Zhamanak”, suggested that unless the project was a bluff, it would prove psychologically important for Armenia where Russian energy companies hold dominant positions. So far, Russian atomic agency RosAtom has expressed its readiness to provide funding to cover only 20 percent of the cost of the construction of a new nuclear reactor and other infrastructure at Metsamor. The total cost of the project is estimated at $5 billion.
At a joint press conference with Sarkozy, Sarkisian said that at their meeting in Yerevan the two particularly discussed the “trade and economic component” in the two countries’ relations.
“And I am very glad that Mr. President expressed his determined position to encourage the involvement of French companies in development projects in Armenia,” said Sarkisian.
“It is particularly good that France is willing to engage in the energy sphere, including in the work on the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Armenia, as well as in projects aimed at developing infrastructure, which are of such a vital importance for Armenia.”