nuclear power station at Metsamor was reactivated
on Tuesday (January 21) following a longer-than-expected
stoppage that has meant millions of dollars in
additional costs for Armenia's energy sector.
Officials said the plant's only functioning reactor
was re-launched shortly after midnight and was
already supplying electricity to the Hayenergo
national power late in the afternoon.
The reactivation took place without a planned
partial refueling of the Soviet-era facility in
accordance with a decision made by the Armenian
government following its failure to secure fresh
nuclear fuel from Russia. Russian nuclear energy
firms have demanded that Yerevan repay $32 million
in outstanding debts for previous fuel supplies.
Under an agreement finalized during President
Robert Kocharyan's visit to Moscow last week,
Russia's RAO UES power utility will assume the
debt in exchange for winning control of Metsamor's
financial operations. The deal is expected to
be signed in Yerevan early next month.
officials now hope that Russian fuel will reach
Armenia by late April. Metsamor's director, Gagik
Markosyan, told RFE/RL that the plant can produce
energy for at least two consecutive months.
Metsamor's reactivation, carried out in the presence
of international atomic energy experts, will also
allow Armenia to avoid severe power shortages
that could have resulted from the disruption of
Russian natural gas supplies last week. An explosion
on a gas pipeline in the Russian North Caucasus
has left Armenia and Georgia without the vital
fuel that generates a large part of their electricity.
It is still not clear when the damaged section
of the pipeline will be restored.
"This should not be considered an emergency
reactivation just because it happened after the
pipeline accident," Markosyan said. "It
was a pure coincidence."
He also said that the Metsamor staff have used
the three-month stoppage to conduct regular maintenance
and improve the plant's safety.