Belarus builds its first nuclear power plant at the doors of the EU

Ostrovets NPPThirty years after the Chernobyl disaster, which affected a large part of Belarusian territory, Minsk built its first nuclear power plant designed and financed by Russia. The neighboring Lithuania is watching the construction, but it is helpless. In the northwestern part of Belarus, nearly 15 km from the Lithuanian border, the construction of the Ostrovets NPP is entering its final phase. The two reactors with a capacity of 1200 megawatts will be deployed in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

The project, approved by the government in 2008 and executed by the Russian group Rosatom, costs 11 billion USD. About 10 billion USD of them were financed by Russian loan.

The building managed to revive the bad memories of a country, whose quarter territory was polluted by radiation in the 1986 after disaster with nuclear power plant reactor in Chernobyl, Ukraine.

Because of the fears of nuclear security, reinforced after the Fukushima accident in 2011, the authorities and the Russian contractor of the project are making efforts to reassure its safety.

In order to show their straightforwardness, the Belarusian authorities demanded that Rosatom replace a crash-damaged tank, although the company’s only paint was dented. The Russian conglomerate presents these third-generation reactors as “the most modern in the world”, respecting “all international norms”.

On the other side of the border, this optimism is far less widely shared. Lithuanian authorites sharply criticized the project, which, according to high-ranking representatives, “violates the international requirements in the field of nuclear safety and the environment 20 km from the EU border and only 40 km from the Lithuanian capital”. Rosatom dismisses these charges.

According to the energy ministry, the Baltic side has taken measures so “no electricity” can enter the Lithuanian market (and therefore the European one). In this way, Ostrovets NPP cannot export its large produced energy, which must be used only within the borders of Belarus. Another unresolved problem is the radioactive waste treatment.