Russia will help Armenia to extend the life of the aging nuclear power plant at Metsamor with an intergovernmental loan to be disbursed soon, a senior Armenian official announced on Wednesday.
Vahram Petrosian, the secretary of a body advising President Serzh Sarkisian on nuclear safety, said the loan will finance additional safety measures needed for keeping the plant operational for ten years longer than had been planned. “That work will mainly be done by Russian companies and involve specialized Armenian firms,” he told journalists.
Petrosian said that the amount of Russian government funding will be ascertained by the end of this year. He noted that similar work done at several Russian nuclear plants in recent years cost around $160 million.
Metsamor was due to be decommissioned by September 2016 in accordance with the 30-year design lifespan of its sole functioning reactor generating around 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity. The Armenian government made clear last year that the Soviet-era facility will operate until 2026 despite long-standing concerns in the West about its safety. Officials attributed this decision to a delay in the construction of a new and more powerful nuclear plant planned by the government.
Petrosian announced the imminent Russian loan following a meeting of the presidential council headed by Adolf Berghoffer, a German nuclear scientist. Speaking at the meeting, President Sarkisian revealed that Russian firms have already started working on prolonging Metsamor’s operations. “That is certainly very important for us,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin promised such assistance after his September 3 talks with Sarkisian held near Moscow. The talks resulted in a surprise announcement that Armenia will join a Russian-led union of former Soviet republics.
Sarkisian also said on Wednesday that the Russian and Armenian governments will sign “in the near future” an agreement on bilateral cooperation on nuclear safety.
Berghoffer stressed the importance of that cooperation at a joint news conference with Petrosian. He argued that Russia is one of the world’s leading nuclear powers.