Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant

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Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant
Metsamor NPP aerial view.jpg
Metsamor NPP site
Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant is located in Armenia
Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant
Location of Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant in Armenia
Country Armenia
Coordinates 40°10′51.04″N 44°8′56.07″E / 40.1808444°N 44.1489083°E / 40.1808444; 44.1489083Coordinates: 40°10′51.04″N 44°8′56.07″E / 40.1808444°N 44.1489083°E / 40.1808444; 44.1489083
Construction began 1969
Commission date December 22, 1976
Operator(s) Inter RAO UES
Power generation
Units operational 1 x 408 MW
Units decommissioned 1 x 408 MW
Annual generation 2,504 GW·h

The Armenian Nuclear Power Plant (Armenian: Հայկական ատոմային էլեկտրակայան), commonly known as the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant, was built during the 1970s, only 36 kilometres west of the Armenian capital of Yerevan in the town of Metsamor. The plant was constructed with two VVER-440 Model V270 nuclear reactors.[1] Unit 1 was shut down in 1989, but unit 2 is expected to receive a life extension enabling it to operate to 2017.[2] The Metsamor plant is one of just a few remaining nuclear power reactors that were built without a secondary containment structure.

The power plant produces about 40% of Armenia's electricity. It was closed due to the 1988 earthquake in Armenia and reopened in 1993. The Unit 2 reactor was brought back into operation on October 26, 1995.[3] The plant has been operated by Russian company Inter RAO UES since 2003, as part of a five-year term to help pay off Armenia's debts.

Metsamor NPP lies near earthquake-prone terrain.[4] The plant was built to withstand up to a 9-magnitude earthquake,[5] and the reactor is cooled by a second contour, which is a separate system, a separate barrier.[6] However, it does not have a secondary containment which would absorb dangerous elements in case of an accident.[7]

Recent unit 2 developments[edit]

Hakob Sanasaryan, an Armenian chemist and environmentalist campaigner and head of the Green Union of Armenia, claimed in 2003 that the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant did not meet internationally accepted nuclear safety standards, due to the lack of a containment vessel.[8]

The E.U. reportedly had classified the VVER 440 Model V230 light water-cooled reactors as the "oldest and least reliable" category of all the 66 Soviet reactors built in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.[9] However the IAEA has found that the Metsamor NPP has adequate safety and can function beyond its design lifespan.[10]

In December 2008, the Armenian government's progress in meeting international safety standards regarding its use of nuclear energy at the Metsamor NPP were praised by Council on Nuclear Energy Safety Chairman Adolf Birkhofer who also praised the overall development of the energy system in the country.[11]

In the wake of Japan's 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, the combination of design and location of Metsamor was again claimed to make it among the most dangerous nuclear plants in the world. The Metsamor power station is one of the few remaining nuclear reactors of its kind that were built without primary containment structures.[4] However, the IAEA has found that the plant has adequate safety and can function beyond its design lifespan. Armenian authorities and nuclear experts have also dismissed the possibility of a repeat of Fukushima, citing numerous safety upgrades the plant has received since one of its reactors was restored into operation in 1995.[10][12]

In October 2015 a life extension of unit 2 was agreed, to take place in 2017 and 2018, permitting it to operate until 2027. The work will include modernization of turbine hall equipment enabling unit 2's power output to increase by 15-18%.[2]

Discussions on possible third unit[edit]

On April 23, 2007 the director of Russia's Federal Agency for Atomic Energy (Rosatom) Sergei Kiriyenko, met with Armenia's Energy Minister Armen Movsisyan and Ecology Minister, Vardan Ayvazyan, where the Russian side indicated Moscow's willingness to help Armenia build a new nuclear power plant, in the event that Armenian officials opted to head in that direction. This statement was followed by former President Robert Kocharyan's speech given to Yerevan State University students on April 27, 2007 during which he said that serious work on the fate of Armenia's atomic energy is underway and practical steps will be taken in this direction in 2008–2009. The president considered it desirable to construct a new nuclear power plant based on the existing infrastructures and new technologies. However, in his words, it is necessary to determine the amount needed and examine what impact it will have on rates. Robert Kocharyan said that in 2012–2013, active work will be carried out to build a new nuclear power plant and modernize the current one.

Armen Movsisyan has also announced that a decision to build a new unit at the operating nuclear power plant to replace the one to be decommissioned has been taken. The new unit would support 1,000 MW, which would "not only meet the needs of Armenia and reduce the country's dependence on organic energy [gas, oil, etc.] considerably, but will also have certain energy importance in the region."[13] The development of a feasibility study for building a new reactor at the Metsamor nuclear power plant is underway with the assistance of foreign specialists. This work is expected to be completed within 1–2 years. Another proposed idea would be to have the unit support 1,200 MW.[14] The cost of the project will go upwards from $4 billion to 5.2-7.2 billion depending on the power of the plant. Armenian Deputy Minister of Energy and natural Resources Areg Galstyan said that the construction of the new nuclear power plant may start in 2011. The new NPP is expected to be commissioned in 2017.[14] The United States has backed plans for a new Armenian Nuclear Plant and has pledged to help the Armenian government conduct feasibility studies needed for the implementation of the multimillion-dollar project.[15] On November 29, 2007 the Armenian government approved a plan to shut down the nuclear power plant, but gave no specific date. According to Energy Minister Armen Movsisyan, the shutdown could cost up to $280 million.

In February 2009, the government announced a tender for a new 1000 MWe unit. In May 2009, Australian company Worley Parsons was chosen to administer the project, and a $460 million management contract was signed in June. Legislation providing for construction of up to 1200 MWe of new nuclear capacity at Metsamor from one or more reactors was passed in June 2009. In December 2009, the government approved establishment of JV Metzamorenergoatom, a 50-50 Russian-Armenian joint stock company set up by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources with Atomstroyexport, with shares offered to other investors1. This will build a 1060 MWe AES-92 unit (with a VVER-1000 model V-392 reactor) with a service life of 60 years at Metsamor. In March 2010 an agreement was signed with Rosatom to provide the V-392 reactor equipment for it. In August 2010, an intergovernmental agreement was signed to provide that the Russian party will build at least one VVER-1000 reactor, supply nuclear fuel for it and decommission it2. Construction was to commence in 2012 or early 2013 and is expected to cost US$5 billion. The customer and owner of new reactors, as well as electricity generated, will be Metzamorenergoatom, and Atomstroyexport will be the principal contractor. Armenia undertakes to buy all electricity produced at commercial rates, enabling investors' return on capital, for 20 years. Metzamorenergoatom is to fund not less than 40% of the construction, and early in 2012 Russia agreed to finance 50%. The latest date for commissioning is 2019-20.[16]

As of 2015, construction of a new nuclear unit is still being considered, though plans were delayed due to the Fukushima crisis. A medium power design of about 600 MWe is now the preferred option.[2]


Cooling towers of Metsamor
Unit[17] Type Net El. Output (MW) Gross El. Output (MW) Start of project First criticality Shut down
Armenia-1 VVER-440 Model V270 376 MW 408 MW 01.07.1969 22.12.1976 25.02.1989
Armenia-2 VVER-440 Model V270 376 MW 408 MW 01.07.1975 05.01.1980

See also[edit]