Armenia can look to IAEA support in ensuring its low-carbon nuclear power is safe and secure, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said during his two-day visit to the country this week. On Tuesday and Wednesday in Yerevan, Mr Grossi met with the country’s President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and other leaders including the Ministers of Health and Infrastructure. He also toured the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant and visited a cancer centre.
Meeting with President Vahagn Khachaturyan, Mr Grossi said the IAEA was ready to assist the country in realizing its future nuclear energy plans. The two discussed the importance of strengthening Armenia’s nuclear sector in view of the country’s plans to extend the lifetime of its Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) and its considerations in building a new conventional reactor or a small modular reactor (SMR). Mr Khachaturyan emphasized the importance of nuclear energy to Armenia and its economy.
Today, a quarter of Armenia’s electricity is generated at the Armenian-2 reactor at Metsamor NPP. First connected to the grid in 1980, the 451 MW(e) reactor was shut down for six years following a 1988 earthquake, before being restarted again in 1995.
Last year, the Armenian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ANRA) issued a permit to extend operation of Armenian-2 until September 2026. An IAEA Safety Aspects of Long Term Operation (SALTO) mission found that Metsamor NPP had made significant improvements in ageing management, and shared further recommendations for safe long term operation. The country has also initiated plans to develop a third 1060 MWe reactor, Armenian-3, at Metsamor NPP.
Meeting with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Tuesday, Mr Grossi described Armenia as a strong IAEA partner and expressed Agency support to help the country ensure its nuclear power programme is safe and secure. In a meeting with Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan, Mr Grossi discussed the IAEA’s work to ensure nuclear safety and security around the world and in addressing current nuclear non-proliferation challenges. Both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister expressed gratitude for the IAEA’s support and said that the country’s plans for its nuclear power programme would remain transparent and strictly follow IAEA recommendations and standards.
The Director General also met with the Minister of Infrastructure, Gnel Sanosyan, and Chairman of ANRA Khachatur Khachikyan, to discuss increasing IAEA support and cooperation as the country evaluates its prospects for deploying SMRs.
During his trip, Mr Grossi had the opportunity to visit Metsamor NPP, located 36 kilometres west of Yerevan. Visiting its reactor and meeting its personnel, he said he was pleased to see the safety and security improvements made to the facility and remarked on the commitment of its dedicated staff.
With Health Minister Anahit Avanesyan, Mr Grossi visited the National Center of Oncology Named After Victor Fanarjian on Tuesday evening, where he was shown how IAEA support was making a difference in Armenia’s fight against cancer. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in Armenia and is estimated to account for 28 per cent of all deaths in the country. In 2019, the IAEA through its Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), conducted an imPACT Review to support Armenia’s Ministry of Health in developing a comprehensive national cancer control programme and to improve access to quality cancer care across the country. The findings of the imPACT Review are available online.
Mr Grossi discussed the potential of Armenia to play a bigger role in Rays of Hope — an IAEA initiative to address cancer care and access to radiotherapy in low- and middle-income countries. The Director General spoke with Ms Avanesyan about the oncology centre becoming a ‘anchor centre’ to share knowledge and improve cancer treatment access in the region.
The Director General concluded his visit in Armenia on Wednesday with a lecture to students at Yerevan State University. Engaging with the youth there, Mr Grossi spoke about the IAEA’s work and its relevance for Armenians, as well as opportunities in the nuclear field including at the IAEA.