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Spectre of Chernobyl nuclear disaster rises again, regarding new nuclear power station in Belarus

Russian-built nuclear plant revives Chernobyl fears,  Power station taking shape on Belarus border feeds anxiety in Lithuania and beyond,  by Richard Milne in Buivydziai and Vilnius and Henry Foy in Ostrovets, 20 Sept 17  Buivydziai is a typical Lithuanian village. A sleepy place with fewer than 300 inhabitants, it has a church, a couple of shops and a school that takes in children from the surrounding countryside. But three years ago, a new neighbour began to take shape. Looming on the horizon just 20km away are the massive cooling towers of a nuclear power station being built near the small Belarusian town of Ostrovets. In a region still scarred by the complex legacy of the Soviet Union and the devastating human consequences of the Chernobyl disaster three decades ago, Belarus’ decision to build a Russian-financed power station on its border with the EU has become a source of deep anxiety. In Buivydziai, Zenobija Mikelevic, the school’s deputy head, says unease about the power plant and changing demographics have already taken their toll, with some families packing up and leaving. “Every year, our school gets fewer and fewer children. I’m a mother of three and my children don’t want to live here,” she says.

Even before the plant is scheduled to open in 2019, the village is preparing for the worst. A small blue triangular sign on a wall outside the school marks the muster point if there is a serious incident. The cellar contains a makeshift shelter to be used by the teachers and 130 children, aged six-18, as they wait to be evacuated. Ana Gricevic, a theology teacher and mother of three who lives in a neighbouring village, says: “My generation [lived through] Chernobyl’s consequences. We saw the birth defects, people dying . . . It’s what I think with Ostrovets: my children might be in danger.” The plant has become a fierce and emotional battleground on the eastern edge of Europe, a region riddled with divisions and suspicion between those inside and outside the EU. It comes at a time of increasing friction between the Brussels-led bloc and Nato allies on the one hand, and Russia and its friends on the other.
Anxiety about the Ostrovets plant is all-encompassing in Lithuania, where the government deems it a threat to national security, public health and the environment. Assertions from Belarus that the facility will be one of the safest in the world cut little ice. The project has fed deep geopolitical fears in Lithuania, a country of fewer than 3m people that in 1990 became the first republic to declare independence from the crumbling Soviet Union. The plant is financed by a $10bn loan from Moscow, and is being designed and built by Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear power monopoly……….
Across the border in Belarus, the Ostrovets plant is viewed as a source of national pride and a guarantor of energy security. Minsk, which says the facility will use the most sophisticated technology available, rejects Lithuania’s allegations that it has broken international rules and hushed up accidents throughout construction..
………The spectre of Chernobyl, the worst nuclear accident in history, is ever present. The 1986 disaster struck in neighbouring Ukraine but the wind meant that 70 per cent of the nuclear fallout landed on Belarus. The effects were worsened by the secrecy of the Soviets, who did not organise an evacuation of the nearest city — just 3km away — until 36 hours after the blast………

September 22, 2017 - Posted by | Belarus, opposition to nuclear

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