YEREVAN, (AFP) - The European Union has dangled the promise of a 100-million-euro ($117 million) grant to Armenia if the former Soviet republic shuts down its aging nuclear power plant, an EU official said Wednesday.
"This nuclear power plant must be closed as soon as possible," said Hugues Mingarrelli, who oversees former Soviet republics for the European Commission, the EU's executive arm. "Right now, we are conducting studies to find the best alternative to the power plant."
Armenia's Metsamor plant, located some 30 kilometers (20 miles) west of the capital Yerevan, provides some 40 percent of all energy used by the tiny, impoverished country. Built in 1977, it was shut down in 1988 after a massive earthquake shook the mountainous state. But the authorities were forced to reopen the two-reactor plant in 1995 because the country, reeling from post-Soviet malaise, faced an energy crisis.
EU officials said one energy alternative for Armenia would be the construction of a natural gas pipeline from Iran, although funding for the project was still being discussed by the 15-nation bloc and other international organizations.