A landmark agreement signed by Armenia and the European Union in November does not call for the closure of the Metsamor nuclear power plant anytime soon, a senior Armenian official insisted on Tuesday.
The Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) covers a wide range of areas, including Armenia-EU cooperation on “energy matters.” It specifically refers to “the closure and safe decommissioning of Metsamor nuclear power plant and the early adoption of a road map or action plan to that effect.”
The 350-page agreement makes clear at the same time that such a plan must take into account “the need for [the plant’s] replacement with new capacity to ensure the energy security of the Republic of Armenia.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Karen Nazarian emphasized this provision when he assured Armenian lawmakers that as a result of the CEPA Yerevan will not be forced to shut down Metsamor before replacing it with a new nuclear or other energy facility. “There is no such language in the agreement,” Nazarian said during a parliament debate on the CEPA’s ratification.
The EU and the United State have long pressed for the decommissioning of the plant generating roughly one-third of Armenia’s electricity. They have said that Metsamor’s Soviet-built reactor does not meet modern safety standards. Successive Armenian governments have sought to allay these fears.
Serzh Sarkisian pledged to build a new plant shortly after becoming Armenia’s president in 2008. However, his government failed to attract billions of dollars in funding needed for replacing the Metsamor facility. 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 being mainly spent on the purchase of Russian nuclear equipment and additional safety measures taken at the plant located 35 kilometers west of Yerevan.
A 20-year energy strategy adopted by the Sarkisian administration in 2015 calls for Armenia’s continued reliance on atomic energy.