A subsidiary of Russia’s state-controlled national electricity company confirmed on Thursday plans to end its eight-year management of Armenia’s Metsamor nuclear power station.
The RAO Unified Energy Systems (UES) was granted control of Metsamor’s finances as well as ownership of five Armenian hydroelectric plants in 2003 in return for repaying the Soviet-era facility’s $40 million debts to Russian nuclear fuel suppliers.
UES has since controlled the nuclear plant’s cash flows through its Inter RAO subsidiary. The latter’s five-year management contract with the Armenian government was prolonged in 2008 and was due to expire in 2013.
The Moscow daily “Kommersant” reported on Thursday that Inter RAO is no longer happy with the terms of the deal and would like to terminate it now. It quoted an unnamed company source as attributing that to “drastically increased risks” in nuclear energy.
Nikolay Gorelov, an Inter RAO spokesman, confirmed the information. He said the company has already offered several other firms, notably Russia’s Rosatom nuclear corporation, to take over Metsamor’s management.
“I would say that these negotiations [with Rosatom] have not even started,” Gorelov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), “Therefore, it’s hard to talk about that for now.”
“There is a desire [to end Metsamor’s management] but whether or not we will manage to do that is not yet clear,” he said.
Rosatom spokesman Sergei Novikov told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the state-owned corporation will consider running Metsamor only at the Armenian government’s request. “As far as I know, so far there has been no such request from the Armenian government,” he said. “Therefore, there is nothing we can talk about.”
The Armenian Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources declined to comment on the issue.
According to “Kommersant,” Rosatom is far more interested in participating in the Armenian government’s ambitious project to replace Metsamor’s existing reactor with a more modern facility meeting international safety standards.
Rosatom and the Armenian Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources set up in late 2009 a joint venture tasked with building the new reactor. It is supposed to be more than twice as powerful as the current reactor which generates roughly 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity.
The Metsamor management faced last month a walkout of more than one-third of the plant’s 450-strong core staff demanding better pay. Most of those employees agreed to return to work after reluctantly accepting a 10 percent increase in their wages offered by the government. Inter RAO appears to have had no involvement in the settlement of the dispute.
Inter RAO is also the owner of Armenia’s national power utility. Another Russian energy giant, Gazprom, has a controlling stake in the Armenian gas distribution network.