Armenia Russia Reaffirm Medzamor Closure Delay

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenian and Russian energy officials on Monday reaffirmed their intention to keep Armenia’s Medzamor nuclear power station operational after 2004–the tentative deadline for its closure agreed with the European Union in the past. Armenian Energy Minister Karen Galustian and Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Yevgenii Adamov told a joint news conference in Yerevan that the Soviet-designed Medzamor plant is safe enough to continue to operate for more years to come.

The facility–which accounts for 40 percent of Armenia’s annual electricity output–was re-activated in 1995 with Russian technical and financial assistance and over the objections of leading Western powers. Armenian government officials have indicated recently that they will be unable to meet the 2004 deadline because it will be impossible to find an alternative source of energy by that time.

"Our calculations have shown that substituting the nuclear power station with new–alternative sources of energy requires very serious financial investmen’s. Finding those investmen’s within such a short period of time is very doubtful," Galustian said. "Our opponents understand that," he added.

Galustian argued that the relatively cheap nuclear power is vital for "the energy security" of Armenia–which he said can not afford to rely more heavily on thermal power stations operating with Russian natural gas. He said "substantial safety measures" have been carried out at Medzamor in the past several years.

Adamov agreed–saying: "As far as safety and other technical matters are concerned–there is no need to shut down the station within the defined period. The station’s operational potential is far from being depleted and the safety of its operations can be brought into conformity with modern standards."

The EU classifies Medzamor’s VVER 440-V230 pressurized light water-cooled reactor–designed in the early 1970s–into the "oldest and least reliable" category of all 66 Soviet reactors built in Eastern Europe and the CIS. But Adamov brushed aside the safety concerns–indicating that the West is guided by political considerations in its drive to have most Soviet-designed nuclear plants shut down. He said the EU and the United States decided to seek their closure following the Soviet collapse in 1992 rather than the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. "Somebody thought it’s the right time to pressurize former Soviet republics," Adamov charged.

Galustian and Adamov spoke to reporters after presiding over a meeting of the CIS inter-governmental commission on nuclear energy. A statement issued by the commission called for joint efforts to create a new generation of nuclear reactors that would "ensure reliable energy supplies without damaging the environment." It urged CIS leaders to sponsor a conference that would discuss all aspects of the idea.

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