YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) -- Armenia approved a plan Thursday to shut down its lone nuclear power plant, following years of pressure from foreign nations concerned about its Soviet-era design and safety.
The government gave no date for closing the Medzamor reactor, located about 20 miles west of the capital, Yerevan. The 27-year-old plant, which supplies nearly half the country's electricity, halted operations after a 1988 earthquake but was restarted during an energy shortage in 1995.
Since then, Armenia has been under constant pressure to close the plant ahead of its 2016 operational end-life due to safety concerns and possible design flaws. The European Union has pledged loans and other assistance estimated to about cover the cost of closing it.
The shutdown could cost up to $280 million, Energy Minister Armen Movsisian said.
Armenian officials have long refused to shut it without another source of electricity.
Last week, the United States said it would fund a preliminary feasibility study on building a new nuclear plant.
President Robert Kocharian has said that building a new, 1,000-megawatt plant -- double that of Medzamor -- would cost more than $3 billion.
In 2004, Russia's state-run electricity grid operator, RAO Unified Energy Systems, assumed financial control of Medzamor in a deal struck to relieve Armenia's massive debts to Russian energy suppliers. UES and Armenia now share management of the plant.