The Armenian government on 12 October approved a draft law on dismantling unit 1 of the Armenian nuclear power plant at Metsamor and will send it to the parliament’s approval. The reactor is no longer in operation.
Metsamor 1&2 at the plant were both shut down in 1989 following an earthquake. However, unit 2 was restarted with Russian assistance in 1994 in the face of severe energy shortages. The two units are seismic-resistant VVER-440-V230 reactors. Metsamor 1 started operation in 1976 and Metsamor 2 in 1980.
The decommissioning process is being carried out in accordance domestic legislation and International Atomic Energy Agency safety standards.
Armenian authorities have long planned to build a new nuclear plant to replace the ageing facility. Metsamor 2 currently accounts for some 40% of Armenia's electricity production. However, in March 2014, the government decided to extend the service life of the unit because of delay in building a new reactor. The life extension, which began in 2015, is being funded by Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom with a $270m loan and $30m in grants. A recent study showed that the first power unit could become a "donor" for the operating unit, and, consequently, its dismantling will help to reduce costs.
Czech company Škoda JS, part of the Russian engineering group OMZ, is involved in the life extension work. The Czech Export Bank (CEB) has said it would provide Škoda JS with warranties worth about $1m for technological exports to upgrade the plant at Metsamor. It represents the Bank’s first historical trade deal in the territory of Armenia, Karel Bureš, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of the CEB, said. Škoda JS will deliver a reactor management system to Metsamor similar to the systems installed in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and to the system currently being delivered to Hungary. Last week Russian nuclear fuel manufacturer signed a deal to supply nuclear fuel for Metsamor 2.
Meanwhile, pressure from the European Union for the closure of the plant continues. On 14 October the European Commission published the text of the Armenia-EU Framework Agreement, which consists of 357 pages. The chapter on energy cooperation noted that the Metsamor plant should be closed and replaced with other capacities that will ensure Armenia’s energy security. The new framework agreement stipulates the closure and safe decommissioning of the nuclear plant and envisages the early adoption of a roadmap or action plan to that effect, taking into consideration the need for its replacement. The framework agreement is scheduled to be signed in November.
Photo: Aerial view of Metsamor