Armenia mulls extending lifespan of country’s nuclear power plant

Armenia’s territorial administration and infrastructure minister Suren Papikyan has said that the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant (ANPP), which is the sole nuclear power facility in the country, is safe enough to remain operational not until 2027 as currently planned, but another ten years.

Speaking at a press conference at the Soviet-era Metsamor plant, located near Yerevan, Mr Papikyan said that the existing facilities allow for an extension of its lifespan. “But I don’t want to get ahead of time,” he told reporters, adding that the Armenian government is yet to discuss the issue.

Armenia’s previous government decided that the lifespan of the plant’s 420 MW reactor, which was due to be decommissioned in 2017, should be prolonged for 10 years after the country failed to attract foreign investment for the construction of a new NPP.

The infrastructure minister’s statement comes as Russia has prolonged a loan of 270 million US dollars for the upgrade of the Metsamor plant due to delays in the modernisation process, which is now set to be completed in 2020.

Discussing the upgrade at the plant on December 10, Armenia’s deputy infrastructure minister Hakob Vardanyan said that the plant would be closed for maintenance in May 2020 for two months.

The Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the EU and Armenia, signed in 2017, calls for the decommissioning of the Metsamor plant but does not, however, specify a deadline.

“Armenia aims to only be self-sufficient in terms of energy but also continue to be an [electricity] exporting country,” wrote RFE/RL’s Armenian service, quoting Mr Papikyan. “Right now the nuclear plant produces 40 per cent of Armenia’s energy. That [proportion] could reach 50 per cent if it operates at full capacity,” he noted.