YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Armenia’s Metzamor nuclear power station can operate for another 20 years without any danger to environment–Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov said on Friday after talks with Armenian leaders.
Russia provided technical and financial assistance to the Armenian government in re-activating the nuclear plant and ending serious electricity shortages four years ago. Metzamor’s two reactors were shut down under public pressure in 1989–shortly after a devastating earthquake in northern Armenia. The plant’s second reactor built in the early 1970s became operational again despite safety concerns voiced by neighboring countries and the West.
Under an agreement with the European Union–Armenia is to finally close the reactor in 2004 in return for the EU’s assistance in improving its safety and disposing of radioactive waste. But Adamov told reporters in Yerevan that Western concerns manifested through "political pressure" are not justified. He said that even Metzamor’s idle first reactor can be re-activated and function for years to come.
The Armenian parliament last April approved terms of a $20.6 million Russian loan for the Medzamor nuclear plant–which is due to be spent on purchases of Russian nuclear fuel.
Adamov headed a Russian government delegation which arrived in Yerevan on Thursday for a session of the Russian-Armenian commission on economic cooperation. Officials say the session focused on ways of stopping a continuing decline in bilateral trade aggravated by the 1998 Russian economic crisis. Armenia’s trade with Russia and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States further decreased in the first half of the year. By contrast–the EU has become Armenia’s number one trade partner.