Russia plans bid to build nuclear plant in Armenia

Thursday, February 7, 2008

YEREVAN, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Russia said on Wednesday it will bid in a tender to build a nuclear power station in Armenia to replace an ageing Chernobyl-style plant that has provoked safety concerns.

Armenia, which imports most of its energy, has said it will close down its Soviet-built Metzamor nuclear reactor, which supplies up 40 percent of the country's power, only when it can add new generating capacity. The government said last year it would hold a tender to build a new 1,000 megawatt reactor at the site near Yerevan, which could be ready by 2016.

"The Armenian government will hold a tender for a new atomic station," Sergei Kiriyenko, the general director of Russia's Rosatom state nuclear holding company, said on a visit to Yerevan.

"We will take part and we have good chances of winning," Kiriyenko said, according to a statement from his press office.

The Metzamor plant, about 25 km (16 miles) outside Yerevan, was closed in 1989 after a massive earthquake killed over 25,000 people in the landlocked former Soviet republic.

Reactor Number Two was recommissioned in 1995, to relieve acute energy shortages, while unit one remains out of action and there are no plans to restart it.

Nuclear experts have expressed concern about the vulnerability of the plant to future earthquakes.

The reactor at the plant is similar to those at Chernobyl in Ukraine, where an explosion in 1986 spread radioactive contamination across much of Europe. (Reporting by Hasmik Mkrtchyan, writing and reporting by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by Anthony Barker)

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