Addressing a conference on the development of nuclear energy in Armenia in Yerevan on March 18, Movses Vardanian said that a working group is being set up jointly with the Russian Rosatom Corporation for that purpose.
The plant’s sole functioning reactor went into service in 1980 and was due to be decommissioned by 2017. Armenia’s government decided to extend the life of the 420-megawatt reactor by 10 years after failing to attract billions of dollars in funding for its ambitious plans to build a new and safer nuclear facility.
In 2015, the Russian government provided Yerevan with a $270 million loan and a $30 million grant for major safety upgrades at Metsamor. The modernization work is expected to be completed in 2023.
The Soviet-built plant located in Metsamor, 35 kilometers west of Yerevan, generates roughly 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity.
“At the initiative of Rosatom and the Armenian nuclear power plant (NPP), we are currently setting up a new technical working group to work on extending the life of the [Armenian NPP] beyond 2026. Rusatom Service will mainly be involved from the Russian side,” Vardanian said.
He said the extension will add 10 more years to the life of the station.
Yuri Sviridenko, the Russian head of the project, said that the Armenian nuclear power plant “can definitely work after 2026.”
“Preliminary estimates have been made, according to which the station can be operated until 2036. But these, I repeat, are preliminary estimates that still need to undergo an examination and receive approval from the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Commission. We are now at this stage,” he said, citing the example of several European countries where the operation of nuclear plants using the same reactor has been extended.
According to Tigran Melkonian, the head of the Energy Department of Armenia’s Ministry of Local Government and Infrastructure, the extension of the operating life of the existing nuclear power plant does not mean that the Armenian government does not intend to start building a new nuclear station.
“The government will make a decision taking into account the reliability of the energy system, the rates and regimes of export, the amount of funding and sources. Before that, a program will be developed on what capacity the reactor will have and in what timeframe and with what funding it will be built. In any case, this is the goal, and we are adjusting our work, which includes the extension of the life of the existing nuclear reactor and its future replacement with a new one,” Melkonian said.
Ara Marjanian, a United Nations expert on energy in Armenia, said that the nuclear power plant is of key importance for the energy security of the country, and, therefore, the preservation of the nuclear power plant and the construction of a new one are among the priority tasks of ensuring the national security of Armenia.
“We have only two facilities that guarantee [the country’s] energy security. These are the Vorotan Cascade hydro-power plant and the Armenian NPP. It is not without reason that the new strategy states that Armenia must have a harmonious three-component [energy] generation system, and nuclear energy is an integral part of our energy security strategy,” the expert said.