Updated at 13:35,25-05-2017

Vilnius reiterates that Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant is unsafe

By Zakhar Shcharbakow, BelaPAN

Vilnius reiterates that Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant is unsafe
Photo: BELTA
The Lithuanian foreign ministry has issued a statement reiterating that the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant, which is being built in the Hrodna region, is unsafe.

It notes that in the event of an accident at the plant the capitals of 16 countries could be affected.

The ministry insists that the Belarusian government had chosen the site for the plant without properly assessing its suitability or exploring alternative options, and failed to study the plant's future environmental impact. It stresses that the area was hit by a 5-7 magnitude earthquake in the past.

The statement says that the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant was not protected against the impact of a crashing passenger aircraft weighing 200 tons and more. A possible plane crash could trigger a nuclear disaster as bad as the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents, it warns.

A possible accident at the plant could contaminate 95 percent of the drinking water consumed by a third of Lithuania's population, according to the statement.
The Lithuanian ministry also notes that the construction site was inspected by a team of International Atomic Energy Agency experts too late, and the organization's SEED-mission was unable to conduct a complete evaluation of all safety risks earlier this year. It also accuses Minsk of failing to deliver on its promise to conduct stress tests for the facility.

In addition, Vilnius raises questions over the competence, powers and experience of Belarus' nuclear safety watchdog.

Minsk has refused to "cooperate" on all of the issues, which makes the project even less safe, says the statement.

Speaking to reporters in Minsk on February 3, Alyaksandr Lukashenka dismissed Lithuania's criticism of Belarus' nuclear power plant project as nonsense.

"Why are you talking nonsense?" the Belarusian leader wondered. "I am saying, 'Can you prevent the construction of the nuclear power plant?’ Can the IAEA [the International Atomic Energy Agency], all other international organizations and other countries prevent this? How can they if this plant will be used for peaceful purposes? All countries build nuclear power plants. Why can't Belarus do it? What is more it is not a weak state that is building our nuclear power plant. It is Russia. An empire. A nuclear country. And Russians will finish the construction project because they are interested in it too. They want to show a new generation of nuclear power plants, the safest generation of nuclear power plants. And they will not give up on this project.”

According to Mr. Lukashenka, the Belarusian government is taking measures to ensure the safety of its nuclear power plant. He said that when a reactor pressure vessel for the plant was involved in an accident in December 2016, he immediately ordered the equipment to be replaced and it was eventually replaced.

“I am telling the Lithuanians, ‘What are you afraid of? After all, we are not making a fuss about the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant that you are shutting down,’” Mr. Lukashenka said. “God forbid that any accident happens there! This is the worst nuclear power plant in the world.”

The Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant is located some 10 miles from the Lithuanian border. Its two reactors are to have a total generating capacity of up to 2,400 megawatts. The first reactor is expected to be put into operation in 2019 and the other in July 2020.

Russia’s AtomStroyExport is the prime contractor in the project.

The first shipment of nuclear fuel is expected to be delivered to the plant by Russia in late 2018.