Armenia investigates geothermal potential


By Tamsin Carlisle

YEREVAN // Armenia has hitched its energy future to nuclear power, but some of that may come from the Earth?s core instead of man-made atomic reactors.

Last year, the landlocked Eurasian state, which produces no oil or gas, won a US$1.5 million (Dh5.5m) grant from the World Bank for technical assistance with geothermal energy development.

It was the second grant Armenia had received under a the bank?s $25m, eight-year GeoFund programme to promote geothermal power in eastern Europe and Central Asia.

?We have a study for geothermal energy,? Armen Movsisyan, the Armenian energy minister, said last week. ?We have the potential and we can utilise it. We have put together a business plan.?

Geothermal power projects tap the underground heat generated by natural nuclear fission as the Earth?s stores of the radioactive metals uranium and thorium decay.

This is most accessible at geological ?hot spots? where the Earth?s crust is stretched thin or under stress. Volcanoes, earthquake activity and natural hot springs are all indicative of hot spots, and Armenia has all of them.

?Armenia is situated in a vast area of intense young volcanism,? notes an EU web portal on the country?s renewable energy. ?This may signify availability of a considerable resource of underground heat.?

The European Commission funds the website under a project aimed at supporting Armenian government policies that promote renewable energy development in a country that has pledged to decommission the ageing atomic plant that supplies 40 per cent of its electricity.

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Source: The National, Abu Dhabi, 01 May 2010 (URL)