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Armenia Overview

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Armenia Overview

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This page is part of the Armenia’s Country Profile.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Armenia did not have any weapons of mass destruction, WMD manufacturing capabilities, or means for their delivery on its territory. Armenia is a party to all major nonproliferation treaties and regimes.


Armenia is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has an Additional Protocol with the IAEA, and has ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

The country has two nuclear research facilities: the Yerevan Institute of Physics and the Analitsark Research Facility in Gyumri. 1 Neither contains fissile material. Armenia has one nuclear power plant, Metsamor, (also known as the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant), which contains two VVER-440 reactor units and produces approximately 40% of the country’s electricity. 2 Unit 1 went critical in 1976 and Unit 2 in 1980. 3 Both units were shut down after a major earthquake in 1988. Unit 1 is permanently out of operation, while Unit 2 was re-commissioned in 1995. 4 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. 5 In March 2014, the Armenian government approved a plan to extend the plant’s operational lifespan until 2026, with repairs scheduled beginning in 2017. 6 These repairs have been funded by the Russian Federation, which has offered Armenia a grant of $30 million and a loan of $270 million to complete the necessary work. 7 The Russian Federation supplies the nuclear fuel necessary for Metsamor’s operation under a 2003 agreement between Russia and Armenia that ceded management of the plant to Russia’s electricity monopoly Unified Energy Systems (UES). 8

Expert bodies and representatives from the region have expressed concerns about the potential for accidents at the site, given the age of the reactor and a history of seismic activity in the area. 9 Turkey and Azerbaijan have been similarly vocal in expressing their concerns about the nuclear power plant’s safety and security, though some of these critiques may also reflect longstanding political and historical tensions between these countries and Armenia. In a statement before the UN Security Council in 2012, the Permanent Representative of Azerbaijan to the United Nations voiced reservations regarding the security of the Metsamor plant in the context of a discussion on preventing nuclear trafficking. 10 At the May 2015 International Energy and Environment Fair and Conference, the Turkish Energy Minister called on environmentalists to march in protest of the plant as outdated and unsafe. 11 Despite these concerns, the IAEA has granted an extension, allowing Metsamor to remain in use until 2027. 12 The European Union has also agreed to Armenia’s extension plan despite previous misgivings.

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. 13 In spite of Armenia’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. 14

In July 2020, amid fighting on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, the spokesperson for the Azerbaijan Defense Ministry threatened a missile strike against Armenia’s Metsamor NPP, warning that such an attack would be catastrophic for Armenia. Yerevan condemned the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry’s statement as a crime. 15

Armenia is a participant in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) Committee on Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy. 16 Armenia has also joined the International Uranium Enrichment Center at Angarsk, Russia.17

The United States has provided ongoing assistance to Armenia for improving its export control system and border security. 18 In May 2012 Armenia and the United States concluded a bilateral agreement to curb the trafficking of illicit materials through Armenian territory, where in recent years a number of Armenian citizens have been caught trying to sell radioactive materials. 19 With U.S. assistance, Armenia opened a new nuclear forensics lab in January 2013 to enable the government to investigate and prosecute smugglers more effectively. 20


Armenia acceded to the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (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 role of this facility was to control endemic diseases and prevent the importation of exotic pathogens that could threaten crops, animals, and humans. 21 In the late 1960s, the system also was tasked with defending the USSR against biological attacks. The center’s present goal is to protect against infectious outbreaks of deadly diseases and to study domestic zoonotic pathogens. 22 In 2010, the U.S. Department of Defense and the Ministry of Emergency Situation of Armenia agreed to cooperate in the area of prevention of proliferation of technology, pathogens and expertise that could be used in the development of biological weapons. 23 In 2017 the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) constructed three biosafety and biosecurity laboratories in Armenia, and provided new technology and seismic protection to replace outdated Soviet-era facilities that raised concerns from the Russian side. 24 DTRA also invested $9 million into ensuring the new labs meet international biosafety standards. 25


Armenia possesses a limited arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles. These are primarily purchased from Russia, as Armenia does not domestically produce ballistic missiles. Between 1993 and 1996, Russia secretly transferred a number of short-range ballistic missiles to Armenia. 26 As of 2005 the country possessed 32 operational R-17 Elbrus missiles (NATO designation SS-1-C Scud-B) and eight launchers, with a range of 300 km. 27 In 2010, the Armenian defense ministry confirmed that it had an unspecified number of Russian-made S-300 (NATO designation SA-10 Grumble) surface-to-air missiles. 28 At a military parade in Yerevan in September 2011, the Armenian military for the first time publicly displayed its tactical ballistic missiles, which included several short-range OTR-21-U Tochka missiles (NATO designation SS-21 Scarab C). 29 The Russian military, which operates bases in the country through a joint defense agreement, has also deployed several Iskander-M (NATO designation SS-26 Stone) systems in Armenia, which have an operational range of 400 km and are designed to evade theater missile defense systems. 30 In 2016, Russian media outlets reported that Armenia purchased several Iskander 9K720 mobile short-range ballistic missiles from Russia. These were seen at a military parade later that year, and have contributed to increased tensions between Armenia and its neighbors, especially in the wake of the April 2016 “Four Day War” with Azerbaijan. 31 In 2017, President Sargsyan threatened the launch of Armenia’s 9K720s in response to further Azerbaijani attacks. 32


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 comply with 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).

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WMD (weapons of mass destruction)
WMD: Typically refers to nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, though there is some debate as to whether chemical weapons qualify as weapons of “mass destruction.”
Nonproliferation: Measures to prevent the spread of biological, chemical, and/or nuclear weapons and their delivery systems. See entry for Proliferation.
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)
The NPT: Signed in 1968, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) is the most widely adhered-to international security agreement. The “three pillars” of the NPT are nuclear disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Article VI of the NPT commits states possessing nuclear weapons to negotiate in good faith toward halting the arms race and the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. The Treaty stipulates that non-nuclear-weapon states will not seek to acquire nuclear weapons, and will accept International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards on their nuclear activities, while nuclear weapon states commit not to transfer nuclear weapons to other states. All states have a right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and should assist one another in its development. The NPT provides for conferences of member states to review treaty implementation at five-year intervals. Initially of a 25-year duration, the NPT was extended indefinitely in 1995. For additional information, see the NPT.
Additional Protocol
The Additional Protocol is a legal document granting the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) complementary inspection authority to that provided in underlying safeguards agreements. The principal aim is to enable the IAEA inspectorate to provide assurance about both declared and possible undeclared activities. Under the Protocol, the IAEA is granted expanded rights of access to information and sites, as well as additional authority to use the most advanced technologies during the verification process. See entry for Information Circular 540.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
IAEA: Founded in 1957 and based in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA is an autonomous international organization in the United Nations system. The Agency’s mandate is the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, technical assistance in this area, and verification that nuclear materials and technology stay in peaceful use. Article III of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT to accept safeguards administered by the IAEA. The IAEA consists of three principal organs: the General Conference (of member states); the Board of Governors; and the Secretariat. For additional information, see the IAEA.
Ratification: The implementation of the formal process established by a country to legally bind its government to a treaty, such as approval by a parliament. In the United States, treaty ratification requires approval by the president after he or she has received the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate. Following ratification, a country submits the requisite legal instrument to the treaty’s depository governments Procedures to ratify a treaty follow its signature.

See entries for Entry into force and Signature.
Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT)
The CTBT: Opened for signature in 1996 at the UN General Assembly, the CTBT prohibits all nuclear testing if it enters into force. The treaty establishes the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) to ensure the implementation of its provisions and verify compliance through a global monitoring system upon entry into force. Pending the treaty’s entry into force, the Preparatory Commission of the CTBTO is charged with establishing the International Monitoring System (IMS) and promoting treaty ratifications. CTBT entry into force is contingent on ratification by 44 Annex II states. For additional information, see the CTBT.
Fissile material
Fissile material: A type of fissionable material capable of sustaining a chain reaction by undergoing fission upon the absorption of low-energy (or thermal) neutrons. Uranium-235, Plutonium-239, and Uranium-233 are the most prominently discussed fissile materials for peaceful and nuclear weapons purposes.
Nuclear power plant
Nuclear power plant: A facility that generates electricity using a nuclear reactor as its heat source to provide steam to a turbine generator.
Critical: A state where the number of neutrons in each period of time, or generation, remains constant. When a nuclear reactor is “steady-state,” or operating at normal power levels for extended periods of time, it is in this state.
Nuclear power plant
Nuclear power plant: A facility that generates electricity using a nuclear reactor as its heat source to provide steam to a turbine generator.
United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council: Under the United Nations Charter, the Security Council has primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. The Council consists of fifteen members, five of which—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—are permanent members. The other ten members are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms. The five permanent members possess veto powers. For additional information, see the UNSC.
Spent nuclear fuel
Spent nuclear fuel: Irradiated nuclear fuel. Once irradiated, nuclear fuel is highly radioactive and extremely physically hot, necessitating special remote handling. Fuel is considered “self protecting” if it is sufficiently radioactive that those who might seek to divert it would not be able to handle it directly without suffering acute radiation exposure.
The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is an association of former Soviet states that coordinates the facilitation of free movement of goods, services, labor force, and capital among member states and promotes cooperation on security matters.
Export control
National laws or international arrangements established to restrict the sale of certain goods to certain countries, or to ensure that safeguards or end-use guarantees are applied to the export and sale of sensitive and dual-use technologies and materials. See entry for Dual-use
Bilateral: Negotiations, arrangements, agreements, or treaties that affect or are between two parties—and generally two countries.
Radioactivity: The spontaneous emission of radiation, generally alpha or beta particles, often accompanied by gamma rays, from the nucleus of an unstable isotope.
(Nuclear) Forensics
(Nuclear) Forensics: Refers to the process of investigating the origin of nuclear material, for example in nuclear materials trafficking cases. For a related concept, see attribution.
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)
The BTWC: The Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction (BTWC) prohibits the development, production, or stockpiling of bacteriological and toxin weapons. Countries must destroy or divert to peaceful purposes all agents, toxins, weapons, equipment, and means of delivery within nine months after the entry into force of the convention. The BTWC was opened for signature on April 10, 1972, and entered into force on March 26, 1975. In 1994, the BTWC member states created the Ad Hoc Group to negotiate a legally binding BTWC Protocol that would help deter violations of the BTWC. The draft protocol outlines a monitoring regime that would require declarations of dual-use activities and facilities, routine visits to declared facilities, and short-notice challenge investigations. For additional information, see the BTWC.
Biological weapon (BW)
Biological weapons use microorganisms and natural toxins to produce disease in humans, animals, or plants.  Biological weapons can be derived from: bacteria (anthrax, plague, tularemia); viruses (smallpox, viral hemorrhagic fevers); rickettsia (Q fever and epidemic typhus); biological toxins (botulinum toxin, staphylococcus enterotoxin B); and fungi (San Joaquin Valley fever, mycotoxins). These agents can be deployed as biological weapons when paired with a delivery system, such as a missile or aerosol device.
Pathogen: A microorganism capable of causing disease.
Ballistic missile
A delivery vehicle powered by a liquid or solid fueled rocket that primarily travels in a ballistic (free-fall) trajectory.  The flight of a ballistic missile includes three phases: 1) boost phase, where the rocket generates thrust to launch the missile into flight; 2) midcourse phase, where the missile coasts in an arc under the influence of gravity; and 3) terminal phase, in which the missile descends towards its target.  Ballistic missiles can be characterized by three key parameters - range, payload, and Circular Error Probable (CEP), or targeting precision.  Ballistic missiles are primarily intended for use against ground targets.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is a military alliance that was formed in 1949 to help deter the Soviet Union from attacking Europe. The Alliance is based on the North Atlantic Treaty, which was signed in Washington on 4 April 1949. The treaty originally created an alliance of 10 European and two North American independent states, but today NATO has 28 members who have committed to maintaining and developing their defense capabilities, to consulting on issues of mutual security concern, and to the principle of collective self-defense. NATO is also engaged in out-of-area security operations, most notably in Afghanistan, where Alliance forces operate alongside other non-NATO countries as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). For additional information, see NATO.
Scud is the designation for a series of short-range ballistic missiles developed by the Soviet Union in the 1950s and transferred to many other countries. Most theater ballistic missiles developed and deployed in countries of proliferation concern, for example Iran and North Korea, are based on the Scud design.
Tactical nuclear weapons
Short-range nuclear weapons, such as artillery shells, bombs, and short-range missiles, deployed for use in battlefield operations.
Ballistic missile
A delivery vehicle powered by a liquid or solid fueled rocket that primarily travels in a ballistic (free-fall) trajectory.  The flight of a ballistic missile includes three phases: 1) boost phase, where the rocket generates thrust to launch the missile into flight; 2) midcourse phase, where the missile coasts in an arc under the influence of gravity; and 3) terminal phase, in which the missile descends towards its target.  Ballistic missiles can be characterized by three key parameters - range, payload, and Circular Error Probable (CEP), or targeting precision.  Ballistic missiles are primarily intended for use against ground targets.
Theater missile defense (TMD)
A system of missile interceptors designed to intercept ballistic missiles launched from a certain region or area. 
Chemical Weapon (CW)
The CW: The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons defines a chemical weapon as any of the following: 1) a toxic chemical or its precursors; 2) a munition specifically designed to deliver a toxic chemical; or 3) any equipment specifically designed for use with toxic chemicals or munitions. Toxic chemical agents are gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical substances that use their toxic properties to cause death or severe harm to humans, animals, and/or plants. Chemical weapons include blister, nerve, choking, and blood agents, as well as non-lethal incapacitating agents and riot-control agents. Historically, chemical weapons have been the most widely used and widely proliferated weapon of mass destruction.
Geneva Protocol
Geneva Protocol: Formally known as the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, this protocol prohibits the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous, or other gases, and bans bacteriological warfare. It was opened for signature on 17 June 1925. For additional information, see the Geneva Protocol.
Multilateral: Negotiations, agreements or treaties that are concluded among three or more parties, countries, etc.
Dual-use item
An item that has both civilian and military applications. For example, many of the precursor chemicals used in the manufacture of chemical weapons have legitimate civilian industrial uses, such as the production of pesticides or ink for ballpoint pens.
Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) requires each state party to declare and destroy all the chemical weapons (CW) and CW production facilities it possesses, or that are located in any place under its jurisdiction or control, as well as any CW it abandoned on the territory of another state. The CWC was opened for signature on 13 January 1993, and entered into force on 29 April 1997. For additional information, see the CWC.
Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)
The OPCW: Based in The Hague, the Netherlands, the OPCW is responsible for implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). All countries ratifying the CWC become state parties to the CWC, and make up the membership of the OPCW. The OPCW meets annually, and in special sessions when necessary. For additional information, see the OPCW.


  1. “Post-Soviet Nuclear and Defense Monitor,” 25 April 1995, p. 12; Yerevan Physics Institute, www.yerphi.am.
  2. Sargis Harutyunyan, “International Experts Find Adequate Safety at Armenian Nuclear Plant,” Azatutyun Radiokayan, 2 June 2011, www.azatutyun.am; “Republic of Armenia: 2014 Article VI Consultation and First Review under the Extended Arrangement-Staff Report, Staff Supplement, and Press Release,” Report by the International Monetary Fund, 11 March 2015, www.imf.org.
  3. “Power Reactor Information System,” International Atomic Energy Agency, www.iaea.org.
  4. “Armenia-2 Restarts After Six-Year Shutdown,” Nuclear News, December 1995.
  5. Emil Danielyan, “New Armenian Power Plant Set for Launch,” Azatutyun Radiokayan, 21 December 2011, www.azatutyun.am.
  6. “Armyanskaya AES posle remonta vnov' podsoedinena k energoseti strany,” RIA Novosti, 20 November 2014, http://ria.ru; Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, “AAES gotovit'sia k remontnym rabotam 2017 goda,” Press release, Government of the Republic of Armenia, 17 February 2015, www.minenergy.am.
  7. “Armyanskaya AES posle remonta vnov' podsoedinena k energoseti strany,” RIA Novosti, 20 November 2014, http://ria.ru; “Russia and Armenia agree to unit 2 life extension,” World Nuclear News, 23 December 2014, www.world-nuclear-news.org.
  8. Emil Danielyan, “Armenian Nuclear Plant to Function for Another Decade,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, 8 August 2005.
  9. “EU again calls on Armenia to stop using Metsamor NPP,” Trend News, 21 March 2013, trend.az; Sabina Idayatova, “Metsamor nuclear power plant not to survive major quakes: expert,” AzerNews, 21 May 2013, azernews.az.
  10. “Security Council, Highlighting Threat from Terrorism, Illicit Nuclear Trafficking, Reaffirms Need for Compliance with Arms Control, Non-Proliferation Commitments,” United Nations Meetings Coverage, 19 April 2012, www.un.org.
  11. Merve Erdil, “Turkey's energy minister calls on environmentalists to march against nuke plant in Armenia,” Hurriyet Daily News, 7 May 2015, www.hurriyetdailynews.com.
  12. “The Uncertain Fate of Armenia’s Nuclear Power Plant,” The Armenian Weekly, 20 October 2017, armenianweekly.com.
  13. Vigen Margaryan, “$25 Million Will Be Allocated to Increase Armenian Nuclear Power Plant Security,” Yerevan Report, 31 May 2011, www.yerevanreport.com.
  14. “Armenia sets up state nuclear security agency,” BBC Monitoring, 18 July 2008.
  15. “Baku, Yerevan exchange statements on possibility of striking critical infrastructure,” 16 July 2020, www.tass.com.
  16. “CIS Committee on Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy Meets in Moscow,” Oreanda-News, 13 March 2009.
  17. International Uranium Enrichment Center, www.eng.iuec.ru.
  18. “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.
  19. “Armenia to Get U.S. Aid Against WMD Smuggling,” Global Security Newswire, 23 May 2012, www.nti.org/gsn.
  20. “Lab opened in Armenia to fight nuclear material smuggling,” Xinhua News Agency, 18 January 2013.
  21. 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, www.nonproliferation.org.
  22. Haroutune Armenian, Byron Crape, Ruzanna Grigoryan, Hripsime Martirosyan, Varduhi Petrosyan, and Nune Truzyan, “Analysis of Public Health Services in Armenia.” Paper prepared for the Ministry of Health with support from the World Health Organization Country Office in Armenia, Yerevan, Armenia 2009.
  23. “Agreement Between the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and ARMENIA,” 3 and 16 September 2010, www.fas.org.
  24. “Biological laboratories created by Pentagon in Armenia one of topics of Russian FM visit to Yerevan,” 11 November 2019, www.jam-news.net.
  25. U.S. Mission Armenia, “U.S. Embassy joins Ministry of Health to open regional disease prevention labs,” U.S. Embassy in Armenia, 16 October 2017, am.usembassy.gov.
  26. Joseph Cirincione, Jon B. Wolfsthal, and Miriam Rajkumar, Deadly Arsenals: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Threats (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2005), p. 113.
  27. Andrew Feickert, “Missile Survey: Ballistic and Cruise Missiles of Selected Foreign Countries,” Congressional Research Service, Updated 26 July 2005.
  28. Emil Danielyan, “Armenia Displays Sophisticated Air Defense Systems,” Eurasia Daily Monitor, 19 January 2011.
  29. “OTR-21A/-21B (SS-21),” Missile Threat (A Project of the George C. Marshall and Claremont Institutes), Updated 17 October 2012, missilethreat.com.
  30. “Russia Stations Advanced Missiles in Armenia,” Asbarez Armenian News, 3 June 2013, asbarez.com.
  31. Armine Sahakyan, “The Double-Edged Sword of Armenia’s New Nuclear-Capable Missiles,” Huffington Post, 10 November 2016, www.huffingtonpost.com.
  32. “Expert Opinion on Karabakh, Year after April War,” Institute of Armenian Studies, 17 April 2017, http://armenian.usc.edu.


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