The USA has signalled its commitment to help Armenia with preliminary studies for the construction of a new nuclear power plant.
A statement of cooperation to develop planning studies for a preliminary environmental impact assessment and feasibility study was signed by representatives of both governments in a ceremony at the Armenian Ministry of Energy in Yerevan on 21 November.
At the signing ceremony, US Charge d'Affaires Joseph Pennington said, "The US government supports the building of a new nuclear unit." The results from the studies will be used by Armenia to choose "the best technical solutions and project logistics," according to the US embassy in Yerevan. Pennington noted that the studies would also serve as a basis for negotiations with potential international suppliers and financiers.
According to press reports, the US is to provide $2 million for the studies, which Armenian energy minister Armen Movsisyan says should be complete by September 2008. Movsisyan anticipated that a new unit could be completed within 5 years once construction began.
Earlier in 2007, Russia agreed to build a new 1000 MWe nuclear power plant in Armenia in return for minority ownership of it. At the time, the Armenian energy minister announced a $2 billion feasibility study, to be carried out with Russia, the USA and the IAEA.
Armenia operates one Soviet-designed VVER-440 nuclear unit at Metsamor, which supplies over 40% of the country's energy needs. It started up in 1979 and is much the same as those which the EU insisted be shut down before Bulgaria and Slovakia joined the EU (though it is adapted to be robust seismically). The EU and neighbouring Turkey have expressed concern about the continuing operation of the plant, which was shut down after a major earthquake in 1988 prompted questions about its safety. It restarted in 1995 and continues to operate despite numerous calls for its closure.
Embassy of the United States, Yerevan
WNA's Nuclear Power in Armenia information paper
WNN: Armenia: 'No alternative' to nuclear energy