The Armenian government has yet to come up with convincing “economic grounds” for realizing its ambitious plans to build a new nuclear power station in Armenia, a senior Russian official said on Wednesday.
Shortly after he came to power in 2008, President Serzh Sarkisian vowed to replace the aging nuclear plant at Metsamor, which generates more than one-third of Armenia’s electricity, with a new and more powerful facility meeting modern safety standards. His government has still not attracted an estimated $5 billion in investments needed for doing that.
Russia and its big energy corporations have expressed readiness to only partly finance the project worth more than Armenia’s entire state budget.
“Negotiations with the Armenian government on the construction of a new nuclear plant have never stopped,” the first deputy head of Russia’s state nuclear energy agency Rosatom, Kirill Komarov, said in Yerevan. “We maintain a constant dialogue.”
Komarov indicated that the Armenian government has not yet proved the project’s cost-effectiveness. “The volume of energy consumption in Armenia and the possibility of electricity exports to neighboring countries is a key issue,” he said. “We are working together in this direction.”
“As soon as we see, together with [Armenian] colleagues, that there are economic grounds for the construction of a new nuclear plant we will definitely try to implement the project,” he told a joint news conference with Armenia’s Deputy Energy Minister Areg Galstian.
The two men addressed the press after co-chairing a joint session of senior officials from the Armenian Ministry of Energy and Rosatom. The meeting focused on ongoing efforts to extend the life of Metsamor’s sole functioning reactor by 10 years, until 2027.
Russia is playing a key role in this endeavor, having provided Armenia with a $270 million loan and a $30 million grant last year. The money is due to be mainly spent on the purchase of Russian nuclear equipment and additional safety measures that will be taken at Metsamor.
Galstian said that Armenian and Russian specialists have already completed an in-depth examination of the plant’s Soviet-designed reactor that went into service in 1980. The Armenian side is now gearing up for the equipment purchase, he said.