EU offers Armenia 100 million euros to shut down nuclear plant

Agence France Presse
March 15, 2004 Monday

EU offers Armenia 100 million euros to shut down nuclear plant


The European Union renewed pleas to Armenia Monday to close a nuclear
power station in an earthquake-prone zone, saying it would provide
100 million euros (122 million dollars) in compensatory aid.

The Soviet-built Metzamor plant, 30 kilometres (18 miles) west of the
Armenian capital Yerevan, supplies 40 percent of the energy in the
former Soviet republic.

It was commissioned in 1980 but closed temporarily because of an
earthquake in 1988.

“Safety is very important to us,” said Torben Holtze, head of the
European Commission delegation here.

“The EU will give Armenia 100 million euros to create alternative
energy production when Armenia sets a date for the closure of the
power plant,” he told journalists.

But Armenian Finance Minister Vardan Khachatrian said his country
would need a billion dollars to compensate for losses if the nuclear
plant closes.

The question of closure was “a very painful question for us,” he
said. “We will not close the plant until we have alternative energy

He said construction of a gas pipeline between Iran and Armenia set
to begin this year would speed moves towards alternative energy.

The nuclear plant was closed down temporarily in 1988 because of an
earthquake at Spitak, but resumed operating in 1995 in order to help
stave off a national energy crisis.

The EU signed an accord with Armenia on closing the plant this year
but Armenia has failed to meet this deadline.

Officials here say the plant is capable of operating until 2018.

Gaguik Markossian, the plant’s director, said in December that
international credits and aid had allowed Armenia to make many safety
improvements at the plant, which includes two 440-megawatt reactors,
only one of which is in operation.

With electricity supplies reduced to three or four hours a day and
industry in crisis, one of the reactors was restarted in 1995. Since
then about 35 million dollars (28 million euros) have been spent on
various safety improvements.

The Institute for Applied Ecology in Austria says the Armenian plant,
along with similar units in Bulgaria, is among the most dangerous in