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Armenia and U.S. in Talks to Replace Aging Metsamor Nuclear Plant

Armenian Nuclear Power Plant

Armenia is in advanced discussions with the United States to build a new nuclear plant designed by the U.S. This new facility will replace Armenia's aging Metsamor nuclear plant, which has been in service since 1980. The Metsamor plant, which provides around 40% of Armenia's electricity, is scheduled to be decommissioned in 2036. 

Armen Grigoryan, the Secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, announced at a conference in Yerevan that talks with the U.S. have reached a "substantive phase." He emphasized the need for a legal framework to move forward with the project. "Without a legal framework, we can’t move forward," Grigoryan stated. He added that the next steps depend on the U.S. completing its internal procedures.

The U.S. has shown significant interest in the project. In May 2022, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan signed a memorandum of understanding on "strategic nuclear cooperation." A year later, a senior U.S. State Department official mentioned that the U.S. is evaluating the feasibility of building a nuclear plant in Armenia using small modular reactors (SMRs). This technology could help Armenia reduce its reliance on Russian energy.

Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan at a Signing Ceremony for a Memorandum of Understanding
Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan at a Signing Ceremony for a Memorandum of Understanding, May 2022

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan revealed plans for an Armenian delegation to visit the U.S. to examine SMRs, which might be more affordable than larger Russian-built nuclear facilities. In June 2023, Pashinyan established a working group to explore different options for the new plant, including SMRs, and report back within two months. However, the findings have not yet been made public.

The potential cost of the project is a significant concern. For instance, the U.S. company NuScale Power Corp had planned to build the first SMR plant in Idaho by 2030, consisting of six reactors with a total capacity of 462 megawatts. However, the project was canceled in November 2023 due to insufficient interest from utilities in purchasing the plant's electricity. The project's estimated cost also rose from $5.3 billion to $9.3 billion, which exceeds Armenia's annual state budget.

Armenian Nuclear Power Plant

In addition to discussions with the U.S., Armenia is also negotiating with Russia and South Korea about the new nuclear plant. The Armenian government announced these negotiations in May but did not provide further details.

Grigoryan highlighted that while Armenia has made progress in diversifying its security sector, the same cannot be said for its economic sector. During a discussion on Armenia's partnerships with the Eastern Partnership and the EU, he emphasized the need for economic resilience and diversification. He pointed out that the construction of a new nuclear plant is part of these efforts. "We have entered a very substantive phase with regard to the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Armenia," Grigoryan said, noting that the legal framework is essential for progress.

He also touched on the importance of political discussions within the EU when considering the entry of Armenian agricultural products into European markets.

Armenia's discussions with the U.S. for a new nuclear plant are a big step towards ensuring the country’s energy independence and economic diversification. As talks progress and legal frameworks are established, the outcome of these negotiations will have significant implications for Armenia's energy future and its broader economic strategy.


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