The Armenian government formally decided on Thursday to extend operations at the Metsamor nuclear power, a move reflecting the apparent delay in its planned replacement by a new and more modern facility.
“Taking into account possible time frames for the launch of the new atomic energy block in the Republic of Armenia and the need to maintain the country’s energy security and independence during that period, it is necessary to extend the exploitation period of the Power Block No. 2,” Energy Minister Armen Movisian said at a cabinet meeting that approved the measure.
The government assigned the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources to draw up by May next year a program of measures to ensure Metsamor’s longer-than-planned operations and their safety. The program will have to be submitted to the government for approval by September 2013.
Metsamor was due to be decommissioned by September 2016 in accordance with the 30-year design life span of its sole functioning reactor that generates about 40 percent of the country’s electricity. President Serzh Sarkisian said in December year that it will operate longer in case of a delay in the construction of a new Armenian nuclear plant. Movsisian said shortly afterwards that the construction will likely start in 2013.
“Our actions in this area are extremely transparent,” Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian told ministers. “We have publicly asked the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to assist us in extending the existing nuclear plant’s operations and building a new nuclear power-generating block.”
The IAEA director general Yukiya Amano, discussed the matter with Tigran Sarkisian and Movisian Wednesday on the first day of a visit to Armenia. According to the Armenian premier, Amano voiced “full support” for Yerevan’s intentions and actions related to nuclear energy.
Amano met with President Sarkisian on Thursday. The presidential press office quoted him as saying that the IAEA and Armenia agree on the need for further safety measures at Metsamor and plan to “closely cooperate” on the new plant’s construction.
Sarkisian, for his part, told the IAEA chief that continued reliance on atomic energy is “vital” for his country.