Russia, Armenia sign deal on new nuclear reactor

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Russia and Armenia signed an agreement Friday on the construction of a new reactor unit for the ex-Soviet republic's controversial Soviet-era Metzamor nuclear power station.

"The agreement provides for cooperation in the construction of a new nuclear power unit in Armenia," Armenian Energy Minister Armen Movsisian told AFP after a signing ceremony during a visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

"A joint venture will be created with (Russian state atomic agency) Rosatom which will provide the new block with equipment for the reactor," he said.

Armenian lawmakers last year approved the construction of the new 1,060-megawatt reactor unit, expected to cost up to five billion dollars (four billion euros), despite international concerns over the ageing plant.

Armenia relies on the plant, 30 kilometres (20 miles) west of the capital Yerevan, for 40 percent of its electricity needs.

The European Union has pleaded with Armenia to shut down the plant, which is in an area prone to earthquakes, and in 2004 offered to provide 100 million euros in compensatory aid.

But Armenian officials say the country cannot afford to do without the plant, which also provides electricity for export to neighbouring Iran.

© 2010 AFP

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