Armenia’s government has not abandoned its ambitious plans to build a new nuclear power station after the eventual closure of the aging plant at Metsamor, President Serzh Sarkisian indicated on Friday.
Sarkisian said his administration remains committed to a 20-year energy strategy adopted in 2015 as he spoke at a regular session of a panel of domestic and international experts advising him on nuclear safety.
“The [2015-2036] program calls for extending the exploitation of the existing [power-generating] block [of the Metsamor plant] until 2027 and gradually introducing new nuclear blocks later on,” he said. Nuclear energy provides a “necessary level of energy security” in the country, added the president.
Justice Minister Davit Harutiunian stated as recently as on October 17 that the Armenian government may give up the idea of replacing Metsamor, which generates roughly a third of Armenia’s electricity, by a new nuclear plant meeting safety standards.
Sarkisian pledged to build the new plant shortly after taking office in 2008. The project never got off the drawing board, however, as his government failed to attract billions of dollars in funding 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.
Vahram Petrosian, the executive secretary of the presidential Atomic Energy Safety Council, said on Friday that the Metsamor may continue functioning even after 2027.
“Our country is not so rich as to stop such a good [nuclear] block ten years later,” Petrosian told reporters after the council meeting chaired by Sarkisian. “Rich countries extend the life [of their nuclear plants] by 30 years. Why should we stop it ten years later?”
Asked about Harutiunian’s statement, the official said: “We have no alternative to atomic energy.”