Growing Challenge of Nuclear Power Plants in Baltic
At the recent meeting with his Estonian counterpart, Andrus Ansip, Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius expressed the hope that Lithuania might convince Belarus about „triviality” of building of its nuclear power plant (NPP) at the Belarusian-Lithuanian border, that was "not wise". Meeting of the European Union group of journalists with the Belarus power sector officials proved that idealistic perception of the Lithuanians had been nothing but delusion.
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Minsk has not been intending to abandon plans of building of its nuclear power plant at Ostrovets, less than 50 km from the Lithuanian capital city of Vilnius. Lithuania objects against this construction site, but in bilateral consultations in June, Belarusian officials failed to reply to Lithuanian questioning about criterion of selection of Ostrovets area for placing of the NPP. Lithuanian authorities, experts and society consider that in case of failure at the eventual Belarus NPP, 80% of Lithuania’s territory would be contaminated and its capital city of Vilnius could be destroyed, online paper Penki kontinentai reported. Lately, another power project of Belarus has won Lithuania’s criticism. It is the Nemnovsk hydroelectric power plant which is to be built on the river of Nemun in Grodno area. The power plant of 20 MW capacity is to be built at a distance of 11 kilometres from the Lithuanian border. In a press release, former Lithuanian President Rolandas Paksas draw attention of the Belarusian side to the danger of contamination by the NPP not only of the basin of the Neris and Nemunas rivers, but also of the Curonian bay and the Baltic Sea. As far there is no adequate reaction of Minsk.
While Belarusian officials emphasize independent decision-making on energy issues, the existing supply of energy resources and future plans of power cooperation with Russia are showing that the Belarusian energy sector will remain highly dependent on Moscow. Statements about exotic alternative energy supplies from Venecuela and Iran, for at least the near term remain on the level of good intentions and rich imagination. In answer to my question, Deputy Energy Minister of Belarus Mikhail Mikhadyuk maintained that the need to procure nuclear fuel for NPPs wold not affect the energy security of Belarus.
Currently, four countries are going to build their own nuclear power plants in the Baltic region. Belarus is willing to build its NPP near Lithuanian border and Russia is to launch the first unit of its Baltiysk NPP in 2016 in Kaliningrad area. Building of two NPP is designed in Poland. Lithuania together with Latvia, Estonia and Poland has been planning to build a NPP in Visaginas. Concentration of nuclear materials in such a small area is a major challenge in view of shortages of professional NPP personnel and the threat of terrorism. If due attention is paid to wind power, only by building of wind farms, Belarus could replace almost a half of the intended NPP potentialities, according to some Belarusian analysts. Other renewable resources could be put to use in the area, too, to deallocate overspill of nuclear materials.