International committee to address Lithuania-Belarus dispute over nuclear plant

Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant site
Astravo AE archyvo nuotr.

The United NationsEspoo Convention obliges nations to share information about projects that can have cross-border environmental impact.

Lithuania has complained about Belarus’ Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant project, saying the chosen site, some 50km from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, was unjustifiable. Lithuania also said Minsk failed to show how it would ensure nuclear safety and prevent environmental impact on the Neris River.

While Belarus maintains that Lithuania’s complaints are political in nature, the Espoo Convention Implementation Committee has ruled that Minsk failed to uphold the international agreement on environmental impact assessment.

The committee then proposed recommendations for Belarus to address the issue. On Tuesday, the Implementation Committee is reviewing Minsk’s progress over the last two years.

Lithuania sees no progress

Lithuania’s Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius reiterated on Tuesday that the country would not be buying electricity from the future plant in Astravyets and expected support for the position from other EU member states.

“Yes, we have clearly stated our position that we are not going to buy unsafe electricity and I believe that EU countries will adopt the same position,” Butkevičius said on LRT Radio on Tuesday morning.

“I can say that all the conclusions that have been formulated thanks to our efforts underline the importance of ensuring nuclear safety outside the EU,” he said.

According to the prime minister, Lithuania, together with its partners, will seek to make sure that the Astravyets plant meet all safety requirements.

“Our position is that Belarus should speed up the process of carrying out risk and resilience assessment tests, because, based on information available to us, Belarus committed itself to performing these tests when it signed a declaration with the European Commission back in June 2011, but we have not seen this so far,” Butkevičius said.

“We will continue to raise this issue until the project meets the international nuclear safety and environmental requirements,” he added.

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