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Belarus – IDU expresses concern over new nuclear power plant

The IDU expresses deep concern as regards nuclear safety and environmental standards of the nuclear power plant (NPP) which is being built in Ostrovets, a location in the North-Western part of Belarus. It notes that there is a number of unanswered questions regarding the project and the site, and that already in 2014 it has been established that the project is being developed in violation of the Espoo Convention and the Aarhus Convention. Despite this, the construction of the NPP is continuing. Moreover, there have been at least 3 known incidents only this year, one of them extremely serious – during which a 330-tons reactor vessel was dropped from the height of 2-4 meters.

The IDU highlights that capitals of 9 countries in Europe fall within the radius of 1000 km around the site of the Ostrovets NPP. Therefore, once the reactor will be launched a serious accident in this facility may irreversibly affect millions of people in the European continent. The closest distance from the NPP runs to the capital Vilnius of Lithuania – only approximately 50 km, i.e. the Ostrovets NPP site is closer to a foreign state capital than to Belarus’s own capital Minsk (140 km), therefore it rightly may be considered as a security concern for the neighbouring country.

Ostrovets NPP is the first nuclear facility ever built in Belarus, a country which has neither the necessary experience in the development of nuclear energy, neither adequate expertise or qualified specialists. However, the Belarusian authorities are reluctant to allow access or provide clear and convincing answers to questions raised by the affected parties.

The IDU highlights that it is a universal responsibility to safeguard human life and environment. As devastating transboundary effects (such as Chernobyl) of a nuclear accident may bring a large-scale damage to it, nuclear energy has to be developed in the most responsible manner, ensuring strict implementation of international requirements and standards.

The IDU calls, therefore, on the Belarusian President and the Belarusian authorities, to stop the construction of Ostrovets NPP until all concerns of the affected parties and international organizations are properly addressed, to adhere most strictly to highest international standards of environmental and nuclear safety and security, to cooperate fully and to provide free and unrestricted access to the project and the site for inspection by the interested parties. It also calls on the international community not to provide any financial assistance or other kind of support, which would help advance the Ostrovets NPP project, prior to all nuclear and environmental concerns are addressed.

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