Lithuanian foreign minister attacks Belarus over nuclear power plant

2013 2013-08-19T15:28:07+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en

Lithuania is "surprised and saddened" by Belarus` actions in connection with the construction of a nuclear power plant in the Hrodna region, Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said while commenting on an August 17 public hearing on the expected environmental impact of the future facility, BelaPAN said.

He accused the Belarusian government of "avoiding observing the Espoo Convention`s requirements." "The Espoo Convention is an internationally recognized document that determines issues of nuclear safety and related issues, especially when it comes to neighboring countries," news agency BNS quoted him as saying.

Mr. Linkevicius stressed that no public hearing was possible until Belarus gave answers to Lithuania`s questions about the project. "One may suggest that there may be no such answers, that`s why they use such concert-style means of dialogue. We don`t need a show, we need the requirements of the Espoo Convention to be observed consistently," he said.

According to the minister, the Belarusian government has failed to explain why a site located just 50 kilometers away from Vilnius was chosen for the plant. In addition, he said, Minsk has not explained why it has not conducted seismic tests in an area that was hit by strong earthquakes in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Lithuania still waits for Belarus to say what technique will be used to cool the plant`s reactor, Mr. Linkevicius said.

"Experts should give very specific answers. After they are received one may hold a public hearing, not vice versa," he noted. He attacked the Belarusian government for starting the construction of the plant before completing a study into its expected environmental impact.

According to Mr. Linkevicius, not a single plant based on the design chosen for Belarus` facility has been built so far. "That`s why there may be no compromises regarding the assessment of its environmental impact," he said.

The Belarusian government held the hearing to try to reassure the Lithuanian public over the future plant’s environmental impact.

A number of Lithuanian NGOs boycotted the event, condemning it as a “mock” public hearing and calling on the Belarusian government to suspend the plant construction before assessing its possible environmental impact as required by the Espoo Convention.