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Armenia

Overview

Last Updated: October, 2018

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.

Nuclear

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. [2] 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. [3] Unit 1 went critical in 1976 and Unit 2 in 1980. [4] 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. [5] 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. [6] In March 2014, the Armenian government approved a plan to extend the plant's operational lifespan until 2026, with repairs scheduled beginning in 2017. [7] 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. [8] 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). [9]

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. [10] Turkey and Azerbaijan have been similarly vocal in expressing their concerns about the nuclear power plants 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. [11] 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. [12] Despite these concerns, the IAEA has granted an extension, allowing Metsamor to remain in use until 2027. [13] 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. [15] 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. [16]

Armenia is a participant in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) Committee on Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy. [17] Armenia has also joined the International Uranium Enrichment Center at Angarsk, Russia. [18]

The United States has provided ongoing assistance to Armenia for improving its export control system and border security. [19] 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. [20] 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. [21]

Biological

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. [22] 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. [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. DTRA also invested $9 million into ensuring the new labs meet international biosafety standards. [24]

Chemical

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).

Missile

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. [25] 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. [26] 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. [27] 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). [28] 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. [29] 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. [30] In 2017, President Sargsyan threatened the launch of Armenia’s 9K720s in response to further Azerbaijani attacks. [31]

Sources:
[1] "Defence-Industrial Sector of ARM MOD," Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Armenia, www.mil.am.
[2] "Post-Soviet Nuclear and Defense Monitor," 25 April 1995, p. 12; Yerevan Physics Institute, www.yerphi.am.
[3] 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.
[4] "Power Reactor Information System," International Atomic Energy Agency, www.iaea.org.
[5] "Armenia-2 Restarts After Six-Year Shutdown," Nuclear News, December 1995.
[6] Emil Danielyan, "New Armenian Power Plant Set for Launch," Azatutyun Radiokayan, 21 December 2011, www.azatutyun.am.
[7] "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.
[8] 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.
[9] Emil Danielyan, "Armenian Nuclear Plant to Function for Another Decade," Eurasia Daily Monitor, 8 August 2005.
[10] "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.
[12] 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.
[13] 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.
[14] “The Uncertain Fate of Armenia’s Nuclear Power Plant,” The Armenian Weekly, 20 October 2017, armenianweekly.com.
[15] Vigen Margaryan, "$25 Million Will Be Allocated to Increase Armenian Nuclear Power Plant Security," Yerevan Report, 31 May 2011, www.yerevanreport.com.
[16] "Armenia sets up state nuclear security agency," BBC Monitoring, 18 July 2008.
[17] "CIS Committee on Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy Meets in Moscow," Oreanda-News, 13 March 2009.
[18] "Armenia to shut Metsamor, join Angarsk," World Nuclear News, 30 November 2007, www.world-nuclear-news.org.
[19] "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.
[20] "Armenia to Get U.S. Aid Against WMD Smuggling," Global Security Newswire, 23 May 2012, www.nti.org/gsn.
[21] "Lab opened in Armenia to fight nuclear material smuggling," Xinhua News Agency, 18 January 2013.
[22] 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.
[23] 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.
[24] 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.
[25] 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.
[26] Andrew Feickert, "Missile Survey: Ballistic and Cruise Missiles of Selected Foreign Countries," Congressional Research Service, Updated 26 July 2005.
[27] Emil Danielyan, "Armenia Displays Sophisticated Air Defense Systems," Eurasia Daily Monitor, 19 January 2011.
[28] "OTR-21A/-21B (SS-21)," Missile Threat (A Project of the George C. Marshall and Claremont Institutes), Updated 17 October 2012, missilethreat.com.
[29] "Russia Stations Advanced Missiles in Armenia," Asbarez Armenian News, 3 June 2013, asbarez.com.
[30] Armine Sahakyan, “The Double-Edged Sword of Armenia’s New Nuclear-Capable Missiles,” Huffington Post, 10 November 2016, www.huffingtonpost.com.
[31] “Expert Opinion on Karabakh, Year after April War,” Institute of Armenian Studies, 17 April 2017, http://armenian.usc.edu.

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

This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2018.