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VILNIUS, November 24 (Itar-Tass) —— Environmental requirements used by Russia in the Baltic nuclear power plant project in the Kaliningrad region are stricter than those of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rosatom Programme Director Sergei Boyarkin said.
“Russian environment impact assessment requirements are much more stringent than IAEA standards, and these requirements were fully met by the Baltic NPP project,” Boyarkin said at a Vilnius forum that focused on prospects for the development of atomic energy in Europe and the Baltic Sea region after the nuclear accident in Japan.
An environment impact assessment report released in the middle of 2009 was the subject of public debates in Neman, Kaliningrad region, which involved representatives from the six neighouring countries. The report was reworked on the basis of their suggestions.
Consultations in Germany, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, and Belarus followed. Some countries had no questions before, but they arose after the accident in Japan.
“We are ready to answer all questions,” Boyarkin said, adding that some countries requested consultations after the accident in Fukushima. They were held in Finland on November 17 and are due in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. One more round of consultations is scheduled with Germany.
The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry made a statement on Wednesday, November 23, saying that Vilnius has not received answers from Russia to key questions regarding the environment impact assessment report in the Kaliningrad region.
“Lithuania has not yet received Russia’s answers to the main questions about the environmental impact assessment of the Kaliningrad nuclear power plant (NPP), and, therefore, we state that Russia is not ready for an open dialogue on the nuclear energy project in Lithuania’s neighbourhood,” the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said.
“Despite Lithuania’s repeated requests Russia has not responded to the requests concerning the implementation of environmental impact assessment procedures under the United Nations Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (hereinafter - the Espoo Convention), even though Russia itself has been committed to do so.
“The environmental impact assessment procedures that are set out in this Convention must be complied with: firstly, we have to receive the environmental impact assessment documentation with answers to our questions, then public hearings have to be organized and then bilateral expert consultations have to take place.
“In the correspondence on the nuclear power plant in Kaliningrad, Russia continuously provides scarce and unmotivated information that there will be no environmental impact on Lithuania during normal operation of the NPP The answers are declarative in nature, unsubstantiated by factual information and do not answer Lithuania’s questions,” the ministry said.
“So far, it is not clear at what stage of implementation is now the Kaliningrad nuclear power plant project and what kind of licenses have been issued to the NPP by Russia’s institutions for Environmental, Technological, and Nuclear Oversight.
“So far we have not received the so many times requested information or documents on economic and technical feasibility of the construction, on the selection criteria for the construction site, the potential impact of the transportation of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste in the Baltic Sea has not been assessed, we have not received the requested information on the resistance of the NPP to plane crashes, they have not provided information on the results of the assessment of the operational impact of the NPP on the water quality of the River Nemunas and biological resources, also the requested documentation is missing regarding the assessment of the radiation exposure of the population and of the surrounding area during normal operation of the nuclear power plant and in emergency situations,” the ministry said.
Lithuania expressed serious concern “about the fact that in 2004 there was a strong earthquake in the same territory, where Russia plans to construct the Kaliningrad nuclear power plant”.
Lithuania suggests that Russia “should fulfil its international obligations and promptly provide answers to the questions. In order to take the final decision in accordance with the Espoo Convention it is necessary to allow experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and other international experts assess the feasibility of the potential construction sites of the Kaliningrad nuclear power plant. Moreover, Lithuania also waits for Russia to carry out stress tests on the Kaliningrad nuclear power plant in accordance with the international and EU requirements and to provide information about the results for independent assessment,” the ministry said.
“Lithuania once again calls on Russia to focus on safety of nuclear facilities, since experience shows that world nuclear safety depends not on issued permits, but on the approach of the state to safety of such facilities. That Russia lacks such approach is testified to by the recent events, when an accident occurred and an essential element of the nuclear power plant safety – the constructions of reactor’s protective case collapsed – despite the fact that all the necessary construction licences had been issued for the second unit of the Leningrad nuclear power plant (Leningrad-2),” the ministry said.