“Pleased to see the safety and security improvements made to Metsamor and impressed with the commitment of its dedicated staff,” Grossi wrote on Twitter after inspecting the Soviet-era plant on Tuesday. He said the UN nuclear watchdog will continue to “help the plant provide low-carbon energy safely and securely.”
Grossi reaffirmed his assessment of the safety upgrades when he spoke to journalists the following day.
“I think the work has been satisfactory,” he said after holding talks with President Vahagn Khachaturian, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and other Armenian officials.
Metsamor generates roughly 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity. Its sole functioning reactor went into service in 1980 and was due to be decommissioned by 2017.
Armenia’s former government decided to extend the 420-megawatt reactor’s life after failing to attract funding for the construction of a new and safer nuclear facility. In 2015, Russia allocated a $270 million loan and a $30 million grant to Yerevan for that purpose.
Russian and Armenian specialists essentially completed Metsamor’s modernization last year. Armenian officials now say the plant located 35 kilometers west of Yerevan is safe enough to operate until 2036.
“The possibility of [further] extending the work of the Metsamor plant depends on the continuity of this well done job,” Grossi said in this regard. “That means continued efforts need to be made there. But I am very encouraged by what I saw.”
Earlier this year, the current Armenian government revived its predecessor’s plans to build a new nuclear plant, presumably by 2036. A senior official in Yerevan said a joint task force formed by the Armenian and Russian governments will explore ways of implementing the ambitious project.
Grossi discussed the project as well as “Armenia's plans for the long-term extension of Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant” with Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures Gnel Sanosian earlier on Wednesday.
“IAEA will continue to support Armenia in safely realizing these plans,” Grossi tweeted after the meeting with Sanosian.
“Low-carbon nuclear power is important to Armenia's future and the youth know this,” he said after meeting students at Yerevan State University.