Armenia hastens Russia to finance nuclear plant
By Jamila Babayeva
Armenia is becoming more unpopular among Russian government and investors as Moscow faces economic difficulties following its interference in the crisis in Ukraine.
Armenia intended to sign an agreement with the Russian government to get loans to start the Metsamor nuclear power plant project by May 1, 2014.
The governments decided in March to extend the operation period of the second power unit of the nuclear power plant in Metsamor and at the same time start the construction of a new nuclear power plant.
But, Russia seems not to hurry to allocate loans to Armenia for this project so far.
The Armenian government, in search of ways to convince Russia to immediately allocate loans for the "investment-hungry" nation, uses every chance in this regard. Azerbaijan's intention to construct a nuclear plant in the next three to four years as part of programs of its National Nuclear Research Center has pushed Armenian authorities to take urgent steps.
"Armenia needs to take the immediate benefits of constructing a new nuclear power unit," Deputy Energy Minister Areg Galstyan said at the parliament on May 14 in response to Azerbaijan's recent decision.
He added that the construction of a power unit is the first priority of Armenia.
"Given the current situation, it is necessary to complete the project as soon as possible," Galstyan said. "Maybe we can benefits from the construction of more nuclear power plants. Maybe we will be forced to take this step."
Thus, Galstyan sent a signal to Russia to accelerate allocating a loan to Armenia for outdated Metsamor NPP. Russia's economy now is in difficult situation and the country may see serious economic slowdown. Russia in this situation will hardly be interested in supporting Armenia in nuclear projects.
Metsamor NPP is a real nuclear threat for the region. Metsamor NPP, built in 1970, was closed down after the devastating earthquake in Spitak in 1988, but resumed its operation in 1995 despite international outrages.
The international community and regional countries like Azerbaijan, Turkey and Georgia have repeatedly urged Armenia to close the dangerous Metsamor NPP immediately. The European Commission recently called Armenia to work towards the earliest possible closure of the Metsamor NPP.
But, Armenia does not attach any particular importance to nuclear safety.
Now Armenia intends to operate Metsamor NPP, which does not meet current safety standards, till 2026.