VILNIUS, August 17 (Itar-Tass) - The Lithuanian Foreign Ministry criticised the just-concluded public hearings on the Ostrovets nuclear power plant project held by Belarus and urged it to strictly adhere to the international nuclear safety and environmental practices.
The ministry said Belarus was trying to portray the hearings in Ostrovets, which were attended by about 100 citizens of Lithuania, as the provision of complete information about the NPP project.
Official Vilnius ignored the hearings saying that Minsk had failed to provide documents required by the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context. “Having invited public figures from Lithuania to Ostrovets, Belarus had ignored the provision of information on environmental impact assessment,” the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said, adding that unilateral hearings “limit the right of Lithuanian citizens to information on the NPP project.”
Minsk disagreed with this assessment and said that despite requests, the information provided to Vilnius had never reached the general public, and Belarus had decided to organise the hearings on its own and invited Lithuanian public figures to attend them.
The joint Belarusian-Lithuanian hearings on the project to build a nuclear power plant in Belarus will be held on August 17 in the western Grogno region, which borders on the Baltic country and where the station is intended to be constructed.
“Our neighbours should have an opportunity to make sure that Belarus meets all safety and environmental requirements and adheres to the strictest standards when implementing the project to build the nuclear power plant,” the Belarusian Energy Ministry said.
It said Belarus was prepared to answer any questions so that the people of Lithuania had full and detailed information about the project.
In addition to an environmental impact assessment report, Belarus has provided Lithuania with detailed results of surveys conducted at the proposed NPP construction site in the city of Ostrovets, Grodno Region. However, there was no constructive response, Alexander Andreyev, head of the special environmental inspectorate of the Belarusian Ministry of the Environment, said.
“Lithuania has assumed a strange position: while saying that it has no full information on the project it speaks of alleged violations and risks related to the Belarusian nuclear power plant,” he said.
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 the generating capacity of 2.4 gigawatts will be located in the Ostrovets district of the Grodno region.
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.