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MINSK, November 6 (Itar-Tass) - Belarus started building its first nuclear power plant in the western Grogno region on Wednesday, November 6, and workers poured cement in the foundation of unit 1, Deputy Minister of Energy Mikhail Mikhadyuk told ITAR-TASS.
“A new stage of construction has started at the plant,” he said, adding that preparatory work had been done “at a high level,” specifically with experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
On November 2, President Alexander Lukashenko signed a decree ordering the construction of the country’s first nuclear power plant.
“Belarus is starting the main stage of nuclear power plant construction,” the presidential press service quoted the decree as saying.
It said that specialists had completed necessary preparations, including under the international obligation assumed by Belarus.
The decree will enable the project’s general contractor, the Russian company Atomstroyexport, to start building the plant.
Last year, Belarus and Russia signed a general contract for the construction of the nuclear power plant. Its first stage is to be finished and commissioned in 2017.
The second unit of the future Belarusian nuclear power plant is expected to be built in 2019 and commissioned in 2020.
Initially it was planned that the first power unit would be commissioned in 2016, and the second one in 2018.
The nuclear power plant with the generating capacity of 2.4 gigawatts will be located in the Ostrovets district of the Grodno region. It will have two units 1,200 MW each. The first of them is scheduled to be commissioned in 2017 and the second one in 2018. Russia will give Belarus a low-interest loan of up to ten billion U.S. dollars for 25 years to finance the project.
Belarus had asked the Russian government to provide a loan for the construction of two units of the Belarusian first nuclear power plant and for the creation and development of necessary infrastructure.
First Vice Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko said, “It has yet to be seen who needs the nuclear power plant more. To us it means diversification of energy supplies; to Russia, it means contracts for its machine-building industry.”
He said the cost of project was estimated at six billion U.S. dollars and would involve from several dozen to several hundred enterprises.
Semashko expressed confidence that Russia would keep its promise and give Belarus a loan for building the nuclear power plant under the Russian project.
According to Belarusian estimates, the commissioning of the nuclear power plant will make it possible to reduce the cost of electricity in the country by 20 percent and cut energy shortages in the country by 20-30 percent. Besides, the plant will be able to export electricity to Europe, including neighbouring Poland and Lithuania, which tried to stop the construction of the nuclear power plant 30 kilometres from its border.
It said that the Ostrovets nuclear power plant project in Belarus violated the U.N. convention, ignored international commitments and principles of good neighbourhood.
By finally determining the site of the planned nuclear power plant and by signing agreements on the project, Belarus does not comply with international standards, which provide that a priority site for the construction could be determined only after carrying out an environmental impact assessment and after answering all the questions raised by the countries that could possibly feel the impact, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said.
“The Belarusian presidential decree of September 15, 2011 on the location and design of the nuclear power plant in Belarus finally established that the site of the planned nuclear power plant should be in the Ostrovets District of the Grodno Region. Thus, Belarus roughly violated the U.N. Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo) and did not comply with it,” the ministry said.
However Vilnius did not reply to Belarus’ concerns about the construction of a nuclear power plant in Lithuania, using the same reactors that work at Fukushima-1, just 2 kilometres from the border with the neighbouring country.
The new nuclear power plant in Belarus will be built according to a Russian design and will use double-loop VVER reactors that operate at the Leningrad NPP in Russia and Tianwan NPP in China and has been recognised by the International Atomic Energy Agency to be the safest technology in the world.