Belarus to Ignore Lithuania Worries, Go Forward with Nuke Reactor

Courtesy of Deutsche Presse-Agentur (October 13, 2011)

Belarusian officials on Thursday said they intended to move quickly to build a nuclear power station in the north of the country, despite worries in adjacent Lithuania that the plant might be dangerous.

Belarusian Vice Minister of Energy Mikhail Mikhailyuk in comments reported by the Interfax news agency said workers already were clearing territory in preparation for the project, and that he expected actual construction of the Ostrovetsky station to begin in early 2012.

Calls by Lithuanian government officials and anti-nuclear activists to delay or halt the Ostrovetsky station project would not affect Belarus’ decision to develop its own source of atomic energy, said Aleksandr Andreev, a Belarus government spokesman.

‘It is the right of Lithuania to decide whether or not they like the project. But it is our right to make the decision,’ Andreev said.

Edminas Bagdonas, Vilnius’ ambassador to Belarus, on Wednesday made public a statement criticizing Minsk’s intention to build a nuclear power station some five kilometres from the Lithuanian border.

Lithuanian officials have questioned the possible reliability of the Ostrovetsky station’s technology and the ability of Belarusian engineers to operate the power plant safely.

Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko has said his country needs nuclear power in order to reduce energy dependence on Russia. The 2.4 megawatt station should be operational by 2017, he has said.

Russia will provide almost all the technologies to be used at Ostrovetsky, as well as financing to cover some 90 per cent of the reported five billion dollar cost of bringing the station on line, Mikhailyuk said.

Belarus along with Ukraine were the regions worst hit by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power accident. Some ten per cent of Belarus’ territory is believed still to contain unsafe radiation levels.