Armenia ‘to extend life of its 1970s Metsamor nuclear power plant after 2026’

Armenia ‘to extend life of its 1970s Metsamor nuclear power plant after 2026’
The cooling towers of Armenian Nuclear Power Plant, aka Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant.
By bne IntelIiNews January 18, 2021

Armenia plans to extend the service life of its five-decade-old nuclear power plant in Metsamor after 2026 and has not abandoned plans to build a new plant, Nuclear Engineering International reported on January 18.

The publication cited the government's strategic programme for the development of the energy sector until 2040, approved by the Armenian Cabinet on January 14.

The programme reportedly identifies the extension of the service life of unit 2 at the Armenian nuclear power plant (NPP) beyond 2026 as one of its key priorities. The subsequent construction of a new nuclear power plant is reported as another key goal of the government.

“Having a nuclear power plant in the energy system will allow Armenia to diversify its energy resources, avoid increasing the country's dependence on imported natural gas, as well as cut the volume of emissions,” the programme says.

The Armenian NPP currently accounts for 39% of Armenia's total electricity generation.

“The government remains committed to its policy of having a NPP in the country's generating capacity. In this context, it should be noted that the option of maximally extending the operating life of the nuclear power plant is a guarantee of the development of the system at the lowest cost,” the document further says.

Nuclear Engineering International also reported that the current investment programme, designed to extend the design life of unit 2 and supported by a Russian loan and grant, would be completed by 2023, according to the plans.

It wrote: “By that time a total of $330 million will have been invested, and the service life of the facility will be extended until 2026. The programme says also that, if the safe operation of unit 2 after 2026 is confirmed by relevant studies, the government will operate the facility at least until 2036, which is expected to require additional investments of $150 million.

“The government is also considering the option of building a replacement nuclear unit at the existing site after the end of its operating life, which will enable Armenia not to increase its dependence on imported natural gas.”

Built in the 1970s, the Armenian NPP has two Soviet-supplied VVER-440-V230 units. It was hit by the Spitak earthquake in 1988 and shut down despite suffering only minor damage. However, unit 2 was recommissioned with Russian help in 1995 with Armenia facing severe energy shortages.