Construction work on a new Armenian nuclear power plant designed to replace the existing facility at Metsamor will start in 2013, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Armen Movsisian announced on Thursday.
“The process of the nuclear plant’s construction has already begun,” Movsisian said when asked by journalists to specify dates for the implementation of the Armenian government’s most expensive and ambitious economic project.
“Building doesn’t just mean taking a pickaxe and digging the ground. That makes up only about 30 percent of the whole project,” he said.
“As for when we will reach the construction phase, we will reach it by the middle of 2013. We will get to the point that involves the pickaxe work,” Movsisian added at a news conference.
Armenian officials said in the past that the construction work will get underway 2012 and probably take five years. Accordingly, they spoke of 2017 as the likely date for the Metsamor plant’s decommissioning that has long been sought by the European Union.
These target dates look increasingly unrealistic, however. Earlier this month, President Serzh Sarkisian gave more indications that the Soviet-era plant, which generates about 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity, will operate longer than planned because of the apparent delay in the new plant’s construction.
The delay reflects the Armenian government’s failure so far attract some $4.5 billion in foreign investments needed for building the new facility that would be more than twice as powerful as Metsamor’s sole functioning reactor.
Movsisian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) on December 6 that Russia’s Rosatom state nuclear energy corporation is ready to invest up to half of the required sum. “There are candidates from different countries for the remaining 50 percent. Discussions with them are in progress,” he said without elaborating.