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The Armenia nuclear power plant is located at Medzamor (also transliterated as "Metsamor"). The plant consists of two VVER-440 Model V230s. The units have been modified with seismic upgrades and are sometimes referred to as Model V270s. Reinforcements have been made to the reactor building and structures, electrical cabinets, and cooling towers. In addition, the Model V270s have primary coolant pumps with longer coast-down time, an additional emergency feedwater, system and an additional residual heat removal system.
Both units were shut down in early 1989 following an earthquake. Before the earthquake, the plant supplied 40 percent of the country's electricity. In 1993, the government decided to restart the plant and, in late 1995, Unit 2 came back on line. During the winter of 1994-95, residents of Yerevan, Armenia's capital, often had only 1-2 hours of electricity daily. With the restart of Unit 2, they were expected to have electricity for 10-12 hours daily.
Unit 2 was selected for restart because it is the newer of the two units. Armenian officials have said Unit 1 will not be restarted.
Armenia's first priority is to ensure the safe operation of Unit 2 and bring it closer to international safety standards. In 1997 Unit 2 supplied 26 percent of the country's electricity.
In 1995, the Armenian government documented its energy program to the year 2005, which included a two-stage plan for nuclear energy development. The first stage entails operating the plant until 2005, and the second stage calls for bringing a new nuclear power plant on line between 2005 and 2010. The Armenian government has committed to the permanent shutdown of Unit 2 when a new nuclear power plant is brought on line. The government's long-term program calls for nuclear energy to provide 38 percent of the country's electricity.
Prior to its shutdown in 1989, the Medzamor plant was part of the Soviet nuclear energy system. Nuclear regulation was the responsibility of Gosatomnadzor, a regulatory agency created by the Soviet government. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, nuclear regulation became the responsibility of the individual independent countries.
With the help of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Armenia established a nuclear regulatory body--Armgosatomnadzor--in 1994. The IAEA also offered to help Armenian regulators resolve technical issues with safety implications for the plant. Armgosatomnadzor, which is responsible for licensing the plant's restart, developed a list of safety-related measures to be carried out either before Unit 2's restart or at a later date.
The government's long-term energy program calls for nuclear energy to provide 38 percent of the country's electricity, hydropower to provide 15 percent, thermal energy, 45 percent, and alternative energy, 2 percent.
In March 1995, the Armenian Minister of Energy and Fuel said that the country planned to increase its electricity generating capacity by building a thermal plant, adding a fifth unit to the Hrazdan gas-fired plant, and rehabilitating existing plants.
In September 1995, power sector officials from Armenia and Iran met to discuss cooperative activities. The two sides agreed to create a joint coordinating company that would develop a program for joint construction of electric power lines and use of the Araks River's hydropower potential.
Some Western nuclear experts have expressed concern that Armenia's energy and electricity shortages will make it difficult for the country to take Unit 2 off line in the event of a safety problem.
Armenia is a party to the Vienna Convention, which ensures that the responsibility for damage caused by a nuclear accident is channeled to the plant operator. It is also a party to the 1988 Joint Protocol on Civil Law Liability and Compensation for Cross-Boundary Damage from Nuclear Accident, which resolves potential conflicts between the Paris Convention--which covers 14 European countries--and the Vienna Convention--which has worldwide coverage.
Although the G-7 (Group of Seven) countries were opposed to Unit 2's restart, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission began providing limited regulatory assistance, not related to restart, in November 1994. During 1995, the NRC used funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide training for Armgosatomnadzor staff in the development of fire protection regulations, site security and the management of spent fuel. In 1996, the NRC plans to provide training in the regulation of seismic issues and decommissioning. It is also discussing additional activities with Armenian authorities.
As part of its agreement with Armenia on the restart of Medzamor Unit 2, Russia is supplying nuclear fuel for the plant.
Spent fuel from Unit 2, which was moved to the reactor cavity from the spent fuel pool after the plant was shut down in 1989, has been retransferred to the spent fuel pool. Russia has agreed to accept spent fuel generated after Unit 2's restart, but this option requires a secure land route, which has been made problematical by the conflict with Azerbaijan.
In January 1996, France's Framatome signed a FF 40 million ($8 million) contract to supply a dry spent fuel storage facility for Medzamor. The facility, to be supplied under a combined grant-loan agreement, will be operational by the end of 1997. It is based on a U.S. system adapted to meet the specifications of the Russian-made VVER fuel used at Medzamor.
Source: Source Book , 4th ed., Nuclear Energy Institute, 1996; Soviet-Designed Nuclear Power Plant Profiles , U.S. Department of Energy, 1999.
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