65,000 Lithuanians sign petition against Belarus nuclear plant

A protest against Belarusian nuclear plant
Photo © Ludo Segers @ The Lithuania Tribune

Lithuania’s conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats have collected nearly 65,000 signatures from the country’s citizens to block a new Belarusian nuclear power plant.

The conservatives’ bill, which would ban selling electricity generated at the Astravyets facility in Lithuania and bar the power plant from using the Lithuanian energy system, was signed by a total of 64,702 residents of Lithuania over two months, the party’s leader Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Monday.

“During the time we collected the signatures, accidents occurred at the nuclear plant. To tell you the truth, we cannot really tell the scale of the accidents and we will probably never find out. Today they are reported by our special services that provide intelligence about various bad things happening there, while officially Minsk denies all this information,” he said.

“Clearly this cannot keep us calm – we know that in case of a future disaster of a larger scale, the probability is high that we would not know anything about it,” said Landsbergis.

He said one of the main questions asked by those who signed the initiative was whether the construction of the Astravyets utility could still be stopped.

“Our answer was always ‘yes’. In our opinion, the law we are submitting to the Seimas is one of the key steps towards the halting of the construction, as we know that the nuclear power plant is built exclusively for exports. If we restrict the exports, the power plant is rendered virtually useless and loss-making – this is likely to lead to termination of the construction,” Landsbergis said.

The signatures were to be taken to the Central Electoral Commission at 11am on Monday.

He said that, should the election watchdog approve the signatures, the bill would go before the parliament, and the conservatives would “make every effort” to have the bill approved at the parliament.

Landsbergis, the leader of the opposition conservatives, said he did not expect extensive support from ruling parties, as the ruling Social Democrats did not join the call to register the bill by joint agreement of all parties. Opposition Liberals and some members of the ruling Labour Party then supported the move.

Conservative Zygimantas Pavilionis, the leader of the signature collection campaign, said Belarus had declared its aim of exporting two thirds of the electricity generated in Astravyets to Western Europe, mainly Poland and Sweden, via Lithuania.

Therefore, Lithuania’s efforts to block the transit path may derail it said Pavilionis.

In Landsbergis’ words, technical inhibition of electricity exports may be implemented by way of phase shifters on the Lithuanian-Belarusian border.

Opponents have given a critical review of the conservatives’ initiative, dismissing it as part of the party’s election strategy.

Lithuania is the most ardent opponent of the Belarusian construction of the nuclear utility just 50 km from Vilnius.

Lithuania claims Belarus has failed to ensure safety of the project, which is being developed merely 20 km from the border.

Meanwhile, Minsk has denied the criticism, pledging to ensure highest safety standards at the nuclear plant.

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