The Belarusian nuclear power plant at Astravetsis a multi-reactor nuclear power plant project in Belarus. Initial plans were announced in the 1980s, but were suspended after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The drive for the current project was fueled by the Russia-Belarus energy dispute in 2007.
By early 2020, the Astravets nuclear power plant is less than 50 kilometers from Lithuania's capital Vilnius and the country's government has long argued the plant will not meet Western safety standards. In a sign of the growing concern, the government ordered in January 2020 millions of iodine pills in case of a nuclear accident at the plant.
The location of the construction site was chosen on 20 December 2008. The nuclear power plant is being built some 18 km away from the town of Astravets in Hrodna Voblast, not far from from Vilnius, Lithuania. Russian Atomstroyexport is the contractor to build the nuclear power plant. Atomstroyexport has also supplied the III generation VVER-1200 type reactors (AES-2006 model). The first reactor is scheduled for commissioning in December 2019, with the second one to go online in July 2020. The first two reactors will have the combined capacity of around 2400 MW. It is possible that two additional reactors will be built by 2025.
On 12 November 2007, a decree defining the organizations responsible for preparing the construction of the nuclear power plant was signed. In accordance with the decree, a Directorate for the Construction of a Nuclear Power Plant was established under the Ministry of Energy. This directorate oversees the preparation, design and exploration works. The Nuclear and Radiation Safety Department, part of the Emergencies Ministry, is acting as the state nuclear regulator and licensing authority
16-30 June 2012 The IAEA mission worked in Belarus to assess the country’s nuclear power infrastructure. The mission analyzed 19 areas of work that are essential for successful implementation of the NPP project. The mission’s report contained 17 recommendations and 25 proposals for further development of the associated infrastructure. Besides, the mission singled out 10 good practices which can be recommended for use in other countries that are building nuclear power plants. The mission praised Belarus’ progress in the implementation of the national nuclear power program, saying its results testify to the country’s overall readiness to construct the nuclear power plant.
Lithuania is the main critic of the Astravyets plant, saying that the project fails to meet international safety standards, but Minsk rejects the criticism. The Lithuanian parliament in June 2017 passed a law declaring the Astravyets plant, under construction just 50 kilometers from Vilnius, a threat to national security, environment and public health. Currently, 44 states are Parties to the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention). The complaint that the Convention was violated when carrying out the environmental impact assessment of the Adatravets NPP was submitted by Lithuania in 2011, when the country did not receive any responses from Belarus to the substantive questions raised regarding the safety of the NPP and its potential impact on the environment and population of the country.
On February 7, 2018, the Meeting of the Parties to the Espoo Convention in Geneva decided that Belarus had violated the Espoo Convention in choosing a construction site for its nuclear power plant so near to Vilnius. According to them, Belarus failed to provide the Committee with the information regarding the justification of the selection of the Astravets site over the alternative sites. The decision was welcomed by Lithuania, as the would-be Belarusian NPP is only 50 kilometres from Vilnius.
In 2013, the Implementation Committee of the Convention had noted that Belarus had violated the provisions of the Convention in developing the NPP project and made recommendations for rectification. These recommendations were adopted at the sixth Meeting of the Parties to the Convention in 2014. The Implementation Committee was commissioned to carry out a comprehensive assessment of the implementation of these recommendations by Belarus.