YEREVAN — Armenia is discussing with the United States the possibility of building a new, U.S.-designed nuclear plant that would replace its aging facility at Metsamor, a senior Armenian official said on Wednesday.

“We have entered a very substantive phase,” Armen Grigoryan, the secretary of Armenia’s Security Council, told a conference in Yerevan. “We are now discussing with the United States putting in place a legal framework. Without a legal framework, we can’t move forward.”

“I can say that the ball is now in the U.S. court. We expect that they will go through internal U.S. procedures before we begin our work,” he added without giving any details.

The Metsamor nuclear plant, which generates roughly 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity, went into service in 1980 and is due to be decommissioned in 2036. The Armenian government announced in April 2022 plans to build a new nuclear plant by that time.

The U.S. has shown an interest in the ambitious project, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan signing in May 2022 a memorandum of understanding on “strategic nuclear cooperation” between their countries. A senior U.S. State Department official said a year later that Washington is “assessing the feasibility” of building a nuclear plant equipped with small modular reactors (SMRs) in Armenia. She said the US technology could make the South Caucasus nation less dependent on Russia for energy.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced afterwards that an Armenian government delegation will visit the U.S. soon to take a close look at local SMRs. He suggested that they could be more affordable for Armenia than the much more powerful nuclear facilities built by Russia.

In June 2023, Pashinyan set up a working group tasked with exploring various options for building the new facility, including the SMRs, and submit its findings to the prime minister’s staff within two months. No such findings have been made public since then.

In May this year, Pashinyan’s government announced that it is negotiating with the U.S., Russia and South Korea on the project. It did not elaborate.

 

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