Belarus nuclear plant: Minsk set to fire up reactor just 45km from Vilnius

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(Euronews) – Europe could pay a heavy price if Belarus is not stopped from firing up its first nuclear plant, Lithuania’s ex-energy minister has told Euronews.

The facility at Ostrovets – also called Astravyets – lies just 45 kilometres from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius and is set to go online in July.

It’s Belarus’ first nuclear plant and comes 34 years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine caused havoc in the south of the country.

While France has dozens of nuclear reactors, many countries, including Germany, have pledged to phase theirs out. The amount of electricity generated by nuclear in the EU dropped from around 45% in 2006 to 28% in 2018.

For Belarus, it’s a source of pride. The 2.4-GW power plant — built with Russian money and supervision — will lessen that nation’s dependence on Moscow for energy.

Ostrovets Unit 1 reactor is expected to go online in July, while the near-identical Ostrovets 2 is set for a sign-off in the fall.

But, since the outset of the project in 2011, Lithuania has been vehemently against it. Vilnius claims it is a geopolitical scheme spearheaded by Russia to keep Lithuania quiet and keep Belarus on a tighter lead.

“The plant is being built in breach of safety standards, including the UN’s Espoo and Aarhus conventions,” Arvydas Sekmokas, Lithuania’s former energy minister, told Euronews.

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