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Nuclear power plant at Astravyets, Belarus


Description:

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.

By 2021 the NPP has been inaugurated. 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Nuclear power plant at Astravyets, Belarus
Country:Belarus
State or province: Astravyets District, Grodno Region
Location of conflict:Astravyets District, Grodno Region, Belarus
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Nuclear
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Nuclear power plants
Specific commodities:Electricity
Uranium
Industrial waste

Project Details and Actors

Project details

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.

The nuclear power plant is expected to cost up to US$11 billion. In addition, there are investments to upgrade the national power grid for power transmission from the nuclear power plant, and the construction of an urban settlement for the power plant's workers.

The Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) is very relevant to the case.

"A number of public figures in Lithuania have called for active resistance to the Astravyets nuclear power plant under construction in Belarus. They say they want to become a center that would constantly remind about the nuclear facility situated close to the Lithuanian border. Vytautas Landsbergis, former speaker of Lithuania's Supreme Council-Reconstituent Seimas and honorary chairman of the Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, says a public resistance movement against the Astravyets power plant could demand for the facility to be built in another place. The demand could be very simple: the place should be different. This place is impermissible; it should be at least 100 km from large residential areas. So it's an impermissible thing in the first place but it was allowed as those who did that ignored everything.

A signed memorandum calls for coming together and initiating a public resistance movement against the nuclear power plant under construction in Belarus and deemed unsafe by Lithuania. Landsbergis said Lithuania is already incurring losses over the Astravyets facility as it needs to invest into the protection of people. "I believe Lithuania is already incurring losses and will have to invest a lot into the protection of people and self-defense. That needs to be included into the Astravyets damage bill. That should be on international conscience," he said. MP Zygimantas Pavilionis, representing the HU-LCD, says such a movement is aimed at making the European Union hear Lithuania's position on Astravyets. [1]

Project area:449
Level of Investment:11,000,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Start of the conflict:20/12/2008
Company names or state enterprises:Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) from Russian Federation
Atomstroyexport from Russian Federation
Relevant government actors:General Designer: Nizhniy Novgorod AtomEnergoProject – NIAEP
Manufacturer of the reactor and steam generators: Atommash (Volgodonsk).
Scientific adviser Kurchatov Institute (Moscow)
Turbine Manufacturer - Power Machines
Belarusian production organizations act as sub-suppliers.
International and Finance InstitutionsConvention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:-International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA.
- Diverse public figures in Lithuania [1].

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Religious groups
Lithuanian government,citizens and environmentalists. Appeal to ESPOO Convention.
Forms of mobilization:Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Strikes
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Boycotts of companies-products

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsPotential: Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsRisk of nuclear contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Accidents, Deaths, Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Other socio-economic impacts, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Other socio-economic impactsRisk of nuclear contamination

Outcome

Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The protests were ignored, construction began despite protests from Lithuanian Government

Sources & Materials

BelarusShort Country Report /AUTHOR Andrei Stsiapanau
http://www.honest2020.eu/sites/default/files/deliverables_24/BY.pdf

Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant Project: Timeline
https://atom.belta.by/en/dosie_en/view/belarusian-nuclear-power-plant-project-ntimeline-208/

Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant Project official web-page
http://www.belaes.by/en/

Start of operation of the first unit of the Belarusian NPP
https://news.tut.by/economics/520220.html

Belarusian nuclear power plant overview
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belarusian_nuclear_power_plant

Belarus Proceeding With Russian-Built Nuclear Plant Despite Accidents, Quake Worries, And Neighbors' Objections
https://www.rferl.org/a/belarus-astravets-nuclear-plant-lithuania-quake-fears/28749653.html

General Designer: Nizhniy Novgorod AtomEnergoProject
http://www.atomic-energy.ru/NIAEP

Nuclear Power in Belarus
http://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/country-profiles/countries-a-f/belarus.aspx

First concrete for second Belarus unit
http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-First-concrete-for-second-Belarus-unit-0306144.html

Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant, Ostrovets
https://www.power-technology.com/projects/belarusian-nuclear-power-plant-ostrovets/

Lithuania not in talks with Belarus on electricity from N-plan



Read more: https://en.delfi.lt/politics/lithuania-not-in-talks-with-belarus-on-electricity-from-n-plan.d?id=78985151
https://en.delfi.lt/politics/lithuania-not-in-talks-with-belarus-on-electricity-from-n-plan.d?id=78985151

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[1]

[1] The Baltic Times. Public figures in Lithuania call for opposing Astravyets NPP in Belarus. 2020-01-15
https://www.baltictimes.com/public_figures_in_lithuania_call_for_opposing_astravyets_npp_in_belarus/

Meta information

Last update07/02/2021

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Soource: World Nuclear Association