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Printed: 25.04.2024.

PrintLithuania calls on Belarus to agree to bringing in international experts for NPP

BC, Vilnius, 17.03.2016.
Lithuania is calling on Belarus to accept a proposal by the Implementation Committee of the Espoo Convention to set up a special expert commission to evaluate the Astravyets nuclear power plant project, the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry said on March 16th, reports LETA/BNS.


"At the committee's meeting, Lithuania reiterated its support for the committee's proposal and called for setting up, as soon as possible, an expert commission that would help obtain the necessary information and assessment, but Belarus refuses assistance from international experts," it said in a press release.


A proposal to establish such a commission was presented back in December 2015. Belarus initially approved of the proposal, but later rejected it.


"Lithuania is calling for constructive dialog with Belarus  – to provide essential information and to implement all the necessary procedures under the Espoo Convention and the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Organization (IAEA)  – and emphasizes that there can be no compromises on the Astravyets nuclear power plant safety issues," the ministry said.


The Implementation Committee of the Espoo Convention also has proposed to bring in international experts to help review the compliance of Belarus' Astravyets nuclear power plant project with the convention, but Minsk does not support the idea.


At its meeting in Geneva on Tuesday, the committee looked into information provided by Belarus and Lithuania regarding the nuclear power facility under construction close to the border between the countries.


"The Implementation Committee has difficulty making assessments, because despite previous recommendations, the work went its own way. Lithuania backs the formation of a group of experts, but Belarus is not inclined to accept this proposal. If not, we are asking to invite an IAEA mission for site selection," Vitalijus Auglys, director of the Pollution Prevention Department at the Lithuanian Environment Ministry, who took part in the committee's meeting in Geneva, told BNS.


According to the official, the committee should decide in the near future on how the review process will proceed.


In Auglys' words, Lithuania and Belarus fail to find a common language because they have different approaches to the safety of the plant and the course of construction.


"It is difficult to have a discussion with them (Belarus' officials). We do not understand each other. Our approaches and reference points differ. We evaluate and then make decisions. They make decisions and then fit things (into these decisions)," the official said.

"If we speak about the selection and acceptance of the site, they speak about the choice of technologies. If we speak about the impact on our capital city, they respond that they have already provided answers to 160 questions. We emphasize certain things and they emphasize the number of responses they have already given to us," he told BNS.


The official said that the key question raised by Lithuania was why the Astravyets site, which is around 50 kilometers from Vilnius, had been chosen for the nuclear power plant project.


The Implementation Committee looked on Tuesday at what steps Belarus has undertaken to ensure that the project meets the requirements of the convention and to implement the recommendations adopted by the parties to the convention in June 2014.


The recommendations said that Belarus was to continue with the process of environmental impact assessment and provide answers to Lithuania's questions.


Belarus is playing games over the Astravyets nuclear power plant and its answers about safety sound like a broken record, Lithuanian Environment Minister Kestutis Treciokas said on Wednesday.


According to the minister, Belarus failed to provide answers to Lithuania's questions about the safety of the Astravyets project during a meeting of the Espoo Convention Implementation Committee in Geneva.


"Belarus is playing its game, to put it bluntly. They have not given answers to a lot of questions we have asked, but they are telling the committee at the Geneva meeting that they are doing everything transparently and are complying with everything, which is not true. Starting with their choice of the site and continuing with many other issues ," Treciokas told reporters in Vilnius.


"An invitation to visit Astravyets is good, but this will not change our position as to international law violations. They remain in place," he said.


"Personally, I think that such facilities should not be built close to cities, capitals, no matter if they are in Lithuania or Belarus, because these are facilities of increased danger and the decision to build (in Astravyets) was more political than economic," he added.