Armenia Shuts Down Nuclear Plant for Renovation

YEREVAN (AFP)–Armenia has shut down its Metsamor nuclear power station for 85-day renovation works and refueling, the station’s chief engineer told AFP Monday.

"The station was shut down on September 5 at midnight and will be launched again on November 29. There will be repairs, refueling, and some measures aimed at boosting security," Movses Vartanian said.

"Meanwhile, there will be no restrictions in energy supply to the customers — other stations will make up for the loss," Vartanian said.

Armenia relies on the Soviet-built Metsamor plant, 30 kilometers (18 miles) west of the capital Yerevan, for 40 percent of its electricity needs. The European Union has pleaded with Armenia to close the ageing plant, which is in an area prone to earthquakes, and in 2004 offered to provide 100 million euros ($148 million) in compensatory aid.

But Armenian officials say their landlocked and resource-poor country cannot afford to do without the plant, which also provides electricity for export to neighboring Iran.

The nuclear plant’s two reactors were shut down temporarily in 1988 because of a major earthquake, but one of them resumed operating in 1995 to help stave off a national energy crisis.

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