Armenia to Seek Additional Conditions for Medzamor Closure

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The Armenian parliamentarians will on Wednesday push for the softening of Yerevan’s pledge to shut down the Medzamor nuclear station in the year 2004 at meeting with a delegation from the European Parliament by demanding that it be linked to additional conditions.

The head of the parliament’s foreign relations department–Shmavon Shahbazian–told RFE/RL that the deman’s will be voiced at a session in Yerevan of a joint parliamentary commission–which is due to issue a statement expressing support for Armenia’s efforts to forge closer ties with the European Union. Medzamor’s closure figures prominently in a draft document prepared by EU lawmakers.

Shahbazian said the Armenian side will try to make several amendmen’s in the document.

"The issue of the nuclear plant’s closure must be directly linked to the issue of providing Armenia with alternative sources of energy which are located on Armenian territory," he said. He added that Yerevan expects an EU commitment to assist in the planned construction of the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline and to seek the lifting of Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades–which he said threaten Armenia’s energy security.

Armenian energy officials insist that Medzamor–which accounts for 40 percent of power generated in the country–can operate after 2004 without posing any danger to the environment.

The Medzamor nuclear power station–which was brought to a halt in July for planned technical inspection and repair–will resume energy generation "in late November," Energy Minister Karen Galustian said on Monday. Galustian said the ongoing installment of modern equipment will render the plant even safer than it is now.

The Soviet-built Medzamor accounts for 40 percent of electricity generated in Armenia each year. Its reactivation in 1995 helped to end severe power shortages that had crippled the country. Under an agreement with the European Union–the Armenian government is to close the plant in 2004. But some senior energy officials in Yerevan have said that Medzamor will not be shut down until they find an alternative source of energy.

Medzamor executives have insisted repeatedly that it poses no danger to Armenia and neighboring states. Russia’s Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov–whose agency was deeply involved in the plant’s reactivation–said last November that it can operate safely for another 20 years.

Galustian said that a total of $40 million has spent to date on the improvement of safety standards at Medzamor.

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