The Armenian government has not abandoned its ambitious plans to build a new nuclear power station in place of the aging plant at Metsamor, Deputy Prime Minister Vache Gabrielian claimed on Friday.
President Serzh Sarkisian pledged to replace Metsamor, which generates roughly a third of Armenia’s electricity, by a modern and more powerful facility meeting safety standards shortly after taking office in 2008. The project never got off the drawing board as his government failed to attract an estimated $5 million needed for the new plant’s construction.
The government decided instead to extend the life of Metsamor’s 420-megawatt 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 in 2015. The money is due to be mainly spent on the purchase of Russian nuclear equipment and additional safety measures that will be taken at the Soviet-era facility located 35 kilometers west of Yerevan.
“If we start the new nuclear plant’s construction now it will not be timely,” Gabrielian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am).Work on the plant might only get underway in 2022 or 2023, he said.
The government initially planned that the new plant would have a design capacity of 1,000 megawatts. In Gabrielian’s words, it now believes that 600 megawatts is a more realistic and cost-effective target.
“In the coming years much smaller and cheaper nuclear plants will start going into service [around the world] in 50-megawatt blocks,” the vice-premier went on. They could represent an even cheaper option for Armenia, he said.
Visiting Armenia in April 2016,the first deputy head of Russia’s state nuclear energy agency Rosatom, Kirill Komarov, said that the authorities in Yerevan have yet to come up with convincing “economic grounds” for implementing the expensive project.