Atomstroiexport to Build Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant

Belarus, the country worst affected by the 1986 nuclear accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine, last week moved forward with plans to build its first nuclear power plant, naming Russian company Atomstroiexport to build it.

Reuters reported that the ex-Soviet state had considered bids by AREVA and Westinghouse to build the 2,000-MW, two-reactor unit near its western border with Lithuania. Atomstroiexport had been the only bidder to provide financing.

Belarus plans to complete construction of a first 1,000-MW reactor in 2016, and a second one two years later, the news agency said.

The country decided to build the nuclear plant in early 2008 after Russian state-owned gas supplier Gazprom upped gas prices paid by Belarus. The 11-day dispute escalated when Russian state-owned pipeline company Transneft stopped pumping oil into the Druzbha pipeline, which runs through Belarus and to Europe.

Russia recently cut gas supplies to Europe following a similar dispute with Ukraine. During the two-week gas crisis, Bulgaria and Slovakia separately announced they would consider restarting units at Soviet-built nuclear plants recently shut down in accordance with EU accession treaties. But while Slovakia last week said resuming operation of the Jaslovske Bohunice was no longer necessary since gas supplies from Russia via Ukraine had stabilized, Bulgaria continues to press its case.

The impact of the gas crisis resembled the aftermath of a terrorist attack at a time of global economic crisis and the Balkan country deserved support, Bulgaria’s Economy Minister Petar Dimitrov told Reuters in an interview last week. As a result of mass demonstrations, the Associated Press reported that the country’s parliament on Friday approved plans to seek EU permission to relaunch two old nuclear reactors at the 440-MW Kozlodui plan that were shut down in 2007.

Belarusian leaders, meanwhile, actively launched plans for construction of a nuclear plant to diversify sources of energy.

According to the United Nations, about 70% of the radioactive fallout from an exploded reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant descended on nearly one-fourth of the country. About 23% of its forests and 20% of agricultural lands are still contaminated by radionuclides. Despite this, there is very little opposition to construction of a new nuclear plant in the country of 10 million on Russia’s western border, Reuters reported.

Sources: Reuters, POWERnews, Radio Slovakia International, AP, United Nations

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