Armenia plans to build new nuclear power units

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YEREVAN, July 29 (RIA Novosti, Gamlet Matevosyan) - The government of Armenia believes the construction of new nuclear power units is a strategic goal to maintain and enhance the republic's energy security and independence, Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markaryan said Friday.

Markaryan held a meeting with chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Muhammad El-Baradei who is currently visiting Yerevan.

El-Baradei said the IAEA could assist Armenia in conducting feasibility studies for the construction of a new nuclear power station.

The IAEA chief said that Armenia had made significant progress in enhancing the safety of the country's nuclear power station but much had yet to be done. He suggested the drafting of a systematized plan with an outline of the project's timeframe and financial breakdown to simplify creditors' efforts.

Markaryan said Armenia was committed to using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only and pursuing a nuclear non-proliferation policy.

The Armenian nuclear power station was launched in 1980, but its operations were suspended in March 1989 for political reasons. It restarted operations in November 1995 due to a severe energy crisis in the republic.

The station's second unit is equipped with Russia's first-generation VVER-440 reactor and generates an average of 30-40% of all electric power in the republic. Experts say the nuclear power station can operate until 2016.

In September 2003, the nuclear power station was transferred to a subsidiary of Russia's electricity monopoly RAO UES and Rosenergoatom Corporation for five years of trust management.

The European Union insists that Armenia's nuclear power station be deactivated and is ready to allocate 100 million euros for this purpose. However, Armenian experts say the creation of alternative energy capacities in the mountainous republic will require almost 1 billion euros.

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