Armenia inaugurated on Friday a special U.S.-equipped laboratory located at the Metsamor nuclear plant and designed to detect radioactive materials that might be smuggled through its territory.
The United States donated its equipment as part of what the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan described as a “joint effort to strengthen Armenian capabilities to respond to the transnational threat of nuclear smuggling.”
“The laboratory will allow Armenia to collect nuclear and radiologically contaminated evidence at crime scenes and perform technical analysis necessary to support the prosecution of smugglers,” the embassy said in a statement. “New opportunities will arise for Armenia to cooperate with governments investigating illicit uses of nuclear material.”
John Heffern, the U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, attended the official opening of the Laboratory for Technical and Forensic Analysis of Nuclear and Radioactive Materials along with Armenian officials.
Possible nuclear smuggling through Armenian territory has for years been a source of U.S. concerns that apparently stem, in large measure, from the country’s proximity to Iran. The U.S. government has supplied Armenian border guard and customs services with U.S.-made radio-communication systems, border sensors, metal detectors, cargo truck scales, and X-ray devices over the past decade.
Washington also sponsored last year a series of Armenian-Georgian exercises aimed at improving the capacity of the two South Caucasus states to combat illegal trafficking of weapons of mass destruction. Officials from the U.S. departments of state, defense and energy took part in the nonproliferation drills.