Belarus reaffirms plans for first nuclear power plant
Belarus’s president reaffirmed on Thursday plans to build the ex-Soviet state’s first nuclear power plant to ensure energy security against the backdrop of depleting fuel reserves and growing energy prices.
Alexander Lukashenko said the country had no alternative to nuclear power. “The republic will not survive without a nuclear power plant. The decision to build the plant was not guided by political ambitions, but by the need to ensure energy security.” Lukashenko announced plans for a 2,000 MW nuclear power plant in April amid a dispute with Russia over prices for natural gas.
Moscow had traditionally backed Minsk, despite the country’s reputation as “the last dictatorship in Europe,” supplying it with energy at heavily subsidized prices. But Russia’s decision to double the price for gas supplies to the country last year dealt a heavy blow to the Belarusian economy. The plans for a nuclear power plant are not popular in Belarus, which was heavily affected by the devastating Chernobyl accident in neighboring Ukraine in 1986. In April, on the anniversary of the disaster, some 2,500 people took to streets of the capital, Minsk, to protest against the project.
Lukashenko did not say who might build the plant, or provide any other details. In April, he said a contractor would be picked via an open tender. Russia and France were later mentioned as possible participants in the tender. Belarus’s energy ministry earlier said the plant would be built in the eastern Mogilyov region, 100 km (62 miles) from the border with Russia, with its first reactor to be commissioned in 2017 and the second in 2020. The plant is expected to provide for 15% of the country’s power consumption. Russia’s nuclear agency chief, Sergei Kiriyenko, said on Thursday that Russia should "take part in and win international tenders for the construction of nuclear power plants." (rian.ru)
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