The FINANCIAL - According to RIA Novosti, Armenia and the U.S. will sign November 21 an energy cooperation agreement, which includes joint development of environmental safeguards for the country's nuclear industry, the U.S. Embassy said on November 19.
Armenia is planning to build a new 1,000-MWt power unit on the site of an existing nuclear power plant, which has been operational since 1976.
The Armenia-U.S. agreement stipulates that the parties will join efforts in preliminary assessment of environmental threats and the development of seismic safeguards if the new reactor is built.
Specialists believe the existing Armenian NPP, located in the town of Metsamor, near the Turkish border, will remain operational until 2016. It generates 40-50% of Armenia's electricity.
In September 2003, the plant came under the five-year trust management of INTER RAO UES, a subsidiary of Rosenergoatom and Russia's RAO UES electricity monopoly.
The European Union has insisted that Armenia shut down the nuclear power plant, offering 100 million euros in aid. But Armenian experts have said the construction of alternative power generating facilities would cost the country about a billion euros.
Armen Movsisyan, the Armenian energy minister, said in September that Armenia must have a permanent source of nuclear power, and that the Armenian NPP must be operational until alternative sources are found.
In order to attract investment for construction of a new power unit, the Armenian parliament abolished in 2006 the state monopoly on the ownership of future NPPs.