Overview Last updated: May, 2012
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Armenia did not have any weapons of mass destruction on its territory, nor did Soviet-era industry manufacture any key components for weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery on Armenian territory. Armenia possesses some conventional weapons production capabilities, mostly as a result of its long-standing conflict with Muslim Azerbaijan over a primarily Armenian-populated region, Nagorno-Karabakh.  In spite of its location among states considered unfriendly to Yerevan, Armenia has foregone the option of developing or acquiring weapons of mass destruction and is a party to a number of international agreements, including the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC).
There are two known nuclear research facilities in Armenia: the Yerevan Institute of Physics and the Analitsark Research Facility in Gyumri.  Neither houses fissile material. Armenia has one nuclear power plant, Metsamor, which contains two VVER-440 reactor units and produces approximately 40% of the country's electricity.  Unit 1 went critical in 1976 and Unit 2 in 1980.  Both units were shut down after the 1988 earthquake. Unit 1 is permanently out of operation, while Unit 2 was re-commissioned in 1995.  The re-opening of Unit 2 played a crucial role during the period of economic recovery following Armenia's independence by providing Armenia with surplus power capacity.  Armenian authorities have indicated that the plant will likely be decommissioned by 2017.  The Russian Federation supplies the nuclear fuel necessary for Metsamor's operation under a 2003 agreement between Moscow and Yerevan that ceded management of the plant to Russia's electricity monopoly Unified Energy Systems (UES).  In July 2008, Armenia created the State Committee for Nuclear Security to draft nuclear energy legislation and to carry out analysis and risk assessment in case of an emergency at Metsamor. 
Armenia has worked closely with the IAEA, the United States, and other states to improve the physical security of Metsamor, investing millions of dollars in security enhancements.  In spite of Yerevan's commitment to security at the plant, officials have refused to export its spent nuclear fuel to be stored or recycled, and have moved forward with plans to construct a third storage facility for the material. The 2003 management agreement with Russia stipulates that spent fuel be transferred to Russia.  In August 2010, Russia and Armenia signed a cooperation agreement for the construction of nuclear power plants in Armenia, including a 1,000 MW, $5 billion unit at Metsamor.  While construction was slated to be begin in 2011, in February 2012 Russia's Rosatom announced that it was still developing a financial model for the plant's construction. 
Armenia is a participant in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) Committee on Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy.  The CIS Council of the Heads of Government recently adopted the Committee's long-term program for inter-state cooperation.  Armenia has also joined the International Uranium Enrichment Center at Angarsk, Russia.
The United States has assisted Armenia in improving its export control system and border security.  Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia and the broader South Caucasus region have experienced numerous incidents of radiological materials trafficking.
Armenia acceded to the BTWC on 7 June 1994. There is no evidence that Armenia possesses or is pursuing biological weapons. During the Soviet era, the Armenian Center for Prophylaxis of Especially Dangerous Diseases (formerly known as the Armenian Anti-Plague Station) was part of the Soviet anti-plague system, the primary objective of which was to control endemic diseases and prevent the importation of exotic pathogens that could threaten crops, animals, and humans.  In the late 1960s, however, the system also was tasked with defending the USSR against biological attacks.
On 15 May 1992, Armenia signed the Tashkent Agreement of the Commonwealth of Independent States, according to which Russia was acknowledged as the legal inheritor of Soviet chemical weapons. In signing the agreement, Armenia agreed to abide by the 1925 Geneva Protocol, to abide by the Soviet moratorium of 1987 on the production of chemical weapons, to coordinate its policy with a view to achieving the speedy conclusion of a multilateral and verifiable convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons, and to coordinate its policy in regards to controlling the export of dual-use chemicals. Armenia is a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention and a founding member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Armenia does not possess ballistic missiles, nor does it produce any key elements for missile systems.
 "Defence-Industrial Sector of ARM MOD," Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Armenia, www.mil.am.
 "Post-Soviet Nuclear and Defense Monitor," 25 April 1995, p. 12; Yerevan Physics Institute, www.yerphi.am.
 Sargis Harutyunyan, "International Experts Find Adequate Safety at Armenian Nuclear Plant," Azatutyun Radiokayan, 2 June 2011, www.azatutyun.am.
 "Power Reactor Information System," International Atomic Energy Agency, www.iaea.org.
 "Armenia-2 Restarts After Six-Year Shutdown," Nuclear News, December 1995.
 Emil Danielyan, "New Armenian Power Plant Set For Launch," Azatutyun Radiokayan, 21 December 2011, www.azatutyun.am.
 Emil Danielyan, "Armenia Presses Ahead with Nuclear Power Plant Construction," Eurasia Daily Monitor, 29 May 2009.
 Emil Danielyan, "Armenian Nuclear Plant to Function for Another Decade," Eurasia Daily Monitor, 8 August 2005.
 "Armenia sets up state nuclear security agency," BBC Monitoring, 18 July 2008.
 Vigen Margaryan, "$25 Million Will Be Allocated To Increase Armenian Nuclear Power Plant Security," Yerevan Report, 31 May 2011, www.yerevanreport.com.
 "Armenia's spent nuclear fuel," Jane's Intelligence Digest, 13 May 2008.
 "Russia, Armenia Seal Agreement on Cooperation in Nuclear Unit Construction," Arka News Agency, 21 August 2010, www.arka.am.
 "RF to build nuclear reactor with modern technologies in Armenia," ITAR-TASS, 7 February 2012, retrieved from www.lexisnexis.com.
 "CIS Committee on Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy Meets in Moscow," Oreanda-News, 13 March 2009.
 "Belarus suggests more effective cooperation between CIS countries," Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus, 19 May 2011, www.government.by/en.
 "Armenia to shut Metsamor, join Angarsk," World Nuclear News, 30 November 2007, www.world-nuclear-news.org.
 "Priority Assistance Project to Help Armenia Combat Nuclear Smuggling," Nuclear Smuggling Outreach Initiative, www.nsoi-state.net; "Export Control and Related Border Security," Embassy of the United States in Armenia, 18 May 2005, www.armenia.usembassy.gov.
 Alexander Kupatadze, "Organized Crime and the Trafficking of Radiological Material," The Nonproliferation Review, July 2010, pp. 219-234.
 Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley, Alexander Melikishvili, and Raymond A. Zilinskas "The Anti-plague System of Armenia," The Anti-plague System in the Newly Independent States, 1992 and Onwards: Assessing Proliferation Risks and Potential for Enhanced Public Health in Central Asia and the Caucasus, 3 January 2008, pp. 8-17, http://cns.miis.edu.
This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright © 2011 by MIIS.
Get the Facts on Armenia
- Operated an anti-plague facility on its territory during the Soviet era
- Acceded to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC) in 1994
- State party to the CWC and a founding member of the OPCW
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