Belarus is seeking a professional dialogue about the construction of its nuclear power plant at Ostravets in Grodno region, Dzmitryy Mironchyk, spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, told reporters in Minsk on 8 June. He added that the project would be discussed at an upcoming meeting in Minsk of the parties to the Espoo Convention (Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context).
The statements follow ongoing criticism of the project from neighbouring Lithuania. The Lithuanian government on 7 June declared the NPP, which is being built 50km from the Lithuanian capital city of Vilnius, to be a national security threat due to breaches and incidents during its construction.
“Nuclear security and environmental safety requirements are still not being followed," Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis was quoted as saying in the statement. Lithuania has also been urging European Union (EU) countries to refuse to buy electricity from the plant. Belarus insists the facility, which is being built by Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, complies with the highest safety standards. Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei told Sputnik on 9 June that Lithuania's objections were economically motivated.
Mironchyk said he hoped that Belarus’s arguments and Lithuania’s arguments would be taken into account and a “non-discriminatory” decision would be made at the Espoo meeting. Belarus took the necessary steps envisaged in the Espoo Convention before it made the decision to launch the construction project,” Mironchyk said. “This is proved by a report by the Implementation Committee of the Espoo Convention, among other things. At the same time, we are willing to constructively cooperate with interested parties and propose sensible ways of establishing such cooperation. The issues of nuclear safety and transparency are a top priority for the Belarusian government during the implementation of the construction project. We do everything possible to ensure the highest possible degree of nuclear safety: we closely cooperate with the IAEA and other partners, including the European Commission.”
In January, a Site and External Events Design (SEED) Review of the NPP was conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The team comprised four experts from the IAEA as well as Pierre Sollogoub (France) and Tamas Katona (Hungary). The report was submitted at the end of April to the Belarus government, which published it on 7 June.
The objective of the SEED team “was to review the relevant NPP design parameters against site-specific hazards to determine whether all necessary safety aspects were adequately considered, as outlined in IAEA safety standards”. The team assessed the information provided by Belarus “and concluded, based on a comparison between site characteristics and design parameters, that appropriate steps were followed to adequately addresses all necessary aspects of site safety and site-specific design parameters for the Belarusian NPP for relevant external hazards”, the report said. It had also concluded, “that appropriate measures have been taken to address challenges related to external events in light of lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi accident and that consideration should be given to future developments of relevant safety improvements”.
The Review Team concluded that:
- systematic and comprehensive screening of external hazards was performed using sound and well-documented criteria;
- site specific parameters are enveloped by the NPP design parameters
- hazard monitoring programmes are adequate and properly documented; and
- appropriate measures have been taken to address challenges related to external events in light of lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi accident.