Armenia considers further life extension for Metsamor

2 March 2020

The new strategy for energy in Armenia to 2040 will require the extension of the Armenian nuclear power plant's operating life beyond 2026, a panel heard last week.

Nune Alekyan, interim chief of the atomic energy division was speaking on 28 February at a panel discussion on prospects for nuclear development of in Armenia.

“The strategy is at the development stage. One of its aims is the development of renewable energy sources and the introduction of energy-saving technologies,” she said. “In this context, the most important issue is the possible further operation of the [Armenian nuclear power plant].”

Gera Sevikyan, an advisor to the CEO of ANPP, said this would mean taking measures to increase safety and efficiency.

"We expect that the plant, provided with modern equipment and compliance with safety rules, will see a 12-15% increase in production," he added.

Earlier, Minister of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure Suren Papikyan said the Armenian nuclear plant could operate beyond 2026 with appropriate modernisation.

Papikyan did not rule out the possibility of building new units after 2026, noting that the prospect of operating small modular reactors had been under consideration for a long time.

The two-unit Armenian nuclear plant, located at Metsamor, was built in the 1970s but was closed following an earthquake in 1988. However, Metsamor 2 was restarted with Russian assistance in 1995 in the face of severe energy shortages.

The Armenian authorities planned to build a reactor to replace the ageing Metsamor facility, but the project has faced financial and political difficulties. In 2014, the government decided to extend the plant’s service life to 2026 because of delays in building the new unit. The extension was made possible by a Russian loan of $270 million and a $30 million grant. The upgrading began in 2019 and was planned to be completed by 2019 but this is now being extended to late 2021.  

Yuri Sviridenko, the Russian project manager responsible for the upgrading told the panel discussion that 2026 had been set as a deadline “based on necessary calculations and engineering research”.

Examination of 5000 pieces of equipment has been completed, he said. Power generation has increased by 10-15% due to the upgrades and the safety of the Metsarmor plant has been increased to meet current international standards.

Alekyan pointed out that Armenia cannot shut down the nuclear power plant, as stipulated by the Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) signed between the European Union and Armenia in 2017, due to the lack of an equivalent source of electricity. CEPA calls for the decommissioning of the Armenian nuclear plant but does not specify a deadline.

Sviridenko told reporters that, in addition to the upgrades, a scheduled repair and maintenance outage is planned for 2021. In 2020, repair of the cooling tower is also planned and in 2021, the reactor vessel will be annealed.

The Kurchatov Institute is working on the RPV annealing technology, and  Atomenergoremont, together with the Gidropress and Tsniitmash enterprises, are implementing it.

After replacing the turbine generators (which took place in 2018-19) and repairing the cooling tower, the station’s capacity will increase from 390 to 440 MWe net.

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