Russia has agreed in principle to lend Armenia $300 million needed for extending the life of the aging nuclear power plant at Metsamor, Energy and Natural Resources Minister Yervand Zakharian said on Friday.
The Soviet-built plant 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 indicated in 2012 that the Soviet-era facility will operate until 2026 despite long-standing concerns in the West about its safety.
The government formally approved the 10-year extension in March. Officials have attributed the move to a delay in the construction of a new and more powerful nuclear plant planned by the authorities in Yerevan.
According to Zakharian, the Russian and Armenian governments have worked out key terms of the Russian loan that will be used for modernizing Metsamor. A final agreement on the loan should be announced “very soon,” he said.
Zakharian told journalists that the Armenian government plans to start six-month capital repairs at the plant located 30 kilometers west of Yerevan in early 2017. The Metsamor reactor will be brought to a halt for the duration of those repairs, he said. “During those six months we will thoroughly repair the plant in order to prolong its exploitation until 2026,” added the minister.
He expressed confidence that Western economic sanctions imposed on Russia because of the Ukraine crisis will not affect the Russian-Armenian deal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to help Yerevan keep Metsamor operational for ten more years after his September 2013 talks with President Serzh Sarkisian held near Moscow. The talks resulted in a surprise announcement that Armenia will join a Russian-led union of former Soviet republics.