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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

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, Ft.com  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………https://www.ft.com/content/a98322de-96f7-11e7-b83c-9588e51488a0
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September 22, 2017 Posted by | Belarus, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

Poland joins Lithuania in criticism of Belarusian nuclear plant

Poland speaks out harshly against Belarusian nuclear plant, Poland has lent its voice to a growing chorus of countries that won’t buy power from the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant that Moscow is building in Ostrovets because it considers the project to be unsafe, RIA Novosti reported, Bellona, August 9, 2017 by Charles DiggesPoland has lent its voice to a growing chorus of countries that won’t buy power from the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant that Moscow is building in Ostrovets because it considers the project to be unsafe, RIA Novosti reported.

Warsaw joins Lithuania in its dour appraisal of the project despite recent assurances from the International Atomic Energy Agency that the plant meets safety norms.

Saying Warsaw “has a different opinion” than the IAEA, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told reporters “We won’t change our position on buying energy from this atomic station.”

“I think that at its foundation lies unsafe technology, and a lack of safety led to Chernobyl,” he said, adding “We are against this nuclear station and don’t plan to cooperate and buy its energy.”

Waszczykowski’s remarks Tuesday were the latest of the stinging rebukes from Eastern Bloc nations against the Belarusian nuclear plant, which have been running on high volume in recent months.

The VVER-1200 nuclear plant, built on a whopping export credit from Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, is expected to come online in 2020.

In April, Vilnius passed a law against buying energy from what its parliament termed “unsafe nuclear power plants in third countries,” and forbidding utilities from transferring energy from such plants through the country’s territory.

The legislation’s clear target, however, is the Belarusian plant, which is going up a mere 40 kilometers from the Lithuanian capital, from which its rising cooling towers are visible on a clear day.

Since May, Lithuania has mounted a campaign among its diplomats throughout Europe to heap criticism on the plant to anyone willing to listen.

Tomas Tomilinas, a Lithuanian parliamentarian recently told Bellona that his country’s opposition to the plant was nothing less than a question of national security.

“Here there cannot be any compromises in questions of guaranteeing the safety of our country and its capital Vilnius,” Tomilinas told Bellona. “We absolutely disagree with the choice of site for the plant and are unsatisfied with answers from the Belarusian side on a whole host of safety issues and incidents that have already occurred during construction.”

Anxieties about the plant have simmered among Belarus’s neighbors since 2010, but redoubled since the plant’s construction site saw a series of clumsy mishaps……..http://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/2017-08-poland-speaks-out-harshly-against-belarusian-nuclear-plant

August 11, 2017 Posted by | Belarus, EUROPE, politics international | Leave a comment

Belarus’ nuclear station – a Faustian bargain with Russia

Poland speaks out harshly against Belarusian nuclear plant Poland has lent its voice to a growing chorus of countries that won’t buy power from the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant that Moscow is building in Ostrovets because it considers the project to be unsafe, RIA Novosti reported, Bellona, August 9, 2017 by Charles Digges, “………Since the early 2000s, many in the West see Russia’s ambitions to built nuclear plants abroad as attempt to cast Moscow’s apron strings into the European Union.

By fully financing reactor builds, they say, the Kremlin is offering a Faustian bargain: energy independence in exchange for long-term debt and Moscow friendly politics.

The Moscow-leaning government of Viktor Orban in Hungary is a good example. Budapest relies on a Soviet-built nuclear power plant for 50 percent of its electricity, and recently signed a €12 billion deal for a second Russia-built plant. Budapest is now also less likely to pester Moscow over sensitive issues like Russia’s covert war in Ukraine.

That’s because Moscow has a habit of settling political disputes by shutting off the power and heat in places where it has built infrastructure. Disputes between Russia and Ukraine, which remain bitter, led to cuts in Europe’s gas supply from Russia during the winter in 2006 and 2009.

Lithuania’s law against the Ostrovet’s plant is Vilnius’s attempt to opt out of being a hostage to Moscow’s new zero-sum nuclear energy policy, and Poland seems to agree.

These boycotts against buying nuclear power have been enormously effective in shutting down other unpopular nuclear builds in the region.

A Russian nuclear plant in the Kaliningrad enclave was quietly shelved in 2011 when Poland declared it wouldn’t help out with financing.

Lithuania’s own plans for a nuclear power plant took a more tortured route. Since 2009, the country has been trying, unsuccessfully, to kindle investment interest in its own Visaginas nuclear power plant to replace the Soviet-built Ignalina station.

A decisive blow against that project came, however, when Poland, as it had done in Kaliningrad retracted financing offers. http://bellona.org/news/nuclear-issues/2017-08-poland-speaks-out-harshly-against-belarusian-nuclear-plant

August 11, 2017 Posted by | Belarus, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Lithuanians alarmed over Belarus’s construction of its first nuclear power plant – a disaster in waiting

Open Democracy 10th Aug 2017, Three decades after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in Ukraine, Belarus is
building its first nuclear power station. Concerns about the project’s
safety aren’t deterring the authorities. Speaking near the site of the
Chernobyl nuclear disaster on the 31st anniversary of the accident this
April, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenka remarked that “both
Belarusians and Ukrainians know that the Chernobyl catastrophe knows no
borders”, in reference to the fact that 70% of the radioactive dust
created in the 1986 chemical explosion descended on Belarus.

Following the same logic, the authorities of neighbouring Lithuania are trying to raise
the alarm about Belarus’s construction of its first nuclear power plant,
which they believe to be the next nuclear disaster in waiting.

One of the major complaints concerns the choice of location. Set near the small town
of Astravets, less than 50km from Vilnius, the site also falls within an
earthquake-prone area.

Lithuanian authorities allege that Belarus did not
conduct a cross-border environmental impact assessment, in breach of the
Espoo Convention, and that in an event of a large-scale accident at the
nuclear plant, the Lithuanian capital, as well as a third of the
country’s population, could face catastrophic consequences.
https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/lidia-kurasinska/new-chernobyl-at-your-doorstep

August 11, 2017 Posted by | Belarus, safety | Leave a comment

Europe should not turn a blind eye to the developing nuclear threat in Belarus

Belarus nuclear plant: A disaster waiting to happen  https://euobserver.com/opinion/138079  By SIJBREN DE JONG, THE HAGUE, 31. MAY, Just over 30 years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which saw Belarus lose a quarter of its territory due to nuclear contamination, the former Soviet republic is set to see its first nuclear power station enter operation in one and a half year’s time from now.

The location in the Belarusian town of Astravets – a mere 50 kilometres from Lithuania’s capital Vilnius – is understandably giving its neighbour the jitters. To make matters worse, the construction of the plant has been mired by a series of mishaps and incidents, sparking major concerns over the safety of the installation.

With Belarusian authorities not budging and full inspections remaining elusive, the Lithuanian government has resorted to taking active steps to protect the country against the plant.

Playing the silent game   In August last year, news emerged that a crane had dropped the 330 tonne heavy reactor from a height of 4 metres during a test lift. If dropping a nuclear reactor was not bad enough in itself, the Belarusian authorities’ attempts to deny or otherwise keep silent on the matter for weeks on end sparked eerie memories of how the Soviets handled the Chernobyl disaster of 1986.

“We never get any information, or we hear something only a month after it happened”, says Darius Degutis, Lithuania’s ambassador at large for the issues related to the Astravets Nuclear Power Plant.

Russian state-owned company Rosatom, the nuclear plant’s main contractor, is complicit in playing the “silent game” by first denying that the accident caused any damage to the reactor shell, only to change its story afterwards by offering to replace the shell. Adding to the concerns was another incident in February 2017, whereby the second reactor hit a power pillar during transport.

The incident could have caused significant tension and deformation, thus impacting on the safety of the reactor vessel. However, rather than properly investigating the impact, the vessel was hoisted into position on 1 April of this year.

Move along, nothing to see here  In order for the international community to be fully informed about the safety standards employed in the plant’s construction, the Lithuanian government has pressed for the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Site and External Events Design (SEED) mission to be invited for a full-scope review.

A full-scope review consists of a six-step assessment, involving reviews and inspections on site selection, environmental impact, design safety and numerous other aspects. A major problem thus far is that the Belarusian authorities limited the scope of the IAEA’s mission only to an assessment of the plant design’s safety.

This means that major verification steps pertaining to the choice of location, local geology and the plant’s environmental impact were skipped.

According to Degutis, the location at Astravets is “known to have been seismically active in the past and no proper international assessment of the site’s location was ever carried out”.

Other failures relate to the measuring of the population density around the site. In doing so, Belarusian officials only assessed population density on the Belarusian side of the border, thus not taking into account that this density on the Lithuanian side is far higher and a third of the country’s population would be at risk in case of a meltdown.

By limiting the scope of the IAEA’s mission, the nuclear watchdog cannot comment on these kinds of issues. To make matters worse, the Belarusian government declared that it would itself perform the plant’s risk and safety assessment.

Given how the numerous incidents at the plant have been handled so far, it is questionable as to whether the Belarusian authorities can be trusted with performing these stress tests in full accordance with European specifications.

Acquiescence is not an option  After having attempted for several years to get the IAEA’s SEED mission full access to the site, the Lithuanian authorities have started to resort to different measures to guard themselves against the plant.

In April of this year, the Lithuanian parliament adopted a law that forbids the purchase of electricity generated from a third country power plant that is constructed or operates in violation of international environmental and nuclear safety requirements.

Earlier this month, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia also agreed to link their power systems to other EU members and, in that way, disconnect from the Soviet-era electricity network.

Given that Belarus repeatedly signalled its intention to sell part of the electricity produced at Astravets in other European countries, the Baltic States have effectively deprived the plant from access to European electricity markets.

Although such actions qualify as last-resort measures, both decisions are entirely defensible when viewed in light of the continuous mishaps witnessed at Astravets. With the memories of Chernobyl still looming large, Europe should not turn a blind eye to this developing nuclear threat and firmly support Lithuania in its quest for full access to the site.

The Crude World monthly column on Eurasian (energy) security and power politics in Europe’s eastern neighbourhood is written by Sijbren de Jong, a strategic analyst with The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (HCSS), specialised in Eurasian (energy) security and the EU’s relations with Russia and the former Soviet Union

June 2, 2017 Posted by | Belarus, safety | Leave a comment

Consequences of Chernobyl

Hidden Radiation Secrets of the World Health Organization, CounterPunch  MAY 2, 2017

“………..WHO held a Chernobyl Forum in 2004 designed to “end the debate about the impact of Chernobyl radiation” whilst WHO maintains that 50 people died.

Here’s the final conclusion of that Chernobyl Forum ‘04: The mental health of those who live in the area is the most serious aftereffect, leading to strong negative attitudes and exaggerated sense of dangers to health and of exposure to radiation. Mental health was thus identified as the biggest negative aftereffect.

Because that conclusion is so brazenly bizarre, the Chernobyl Forum ‘04 must’ve been part of an alternative universe, way out there beyond the wild blue yonder, maybe the Twilight Zone or maybe like entering a scene in Jan Švankmajer’s Alice, a dark fantasy film loose adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Here’s reality: Chernobyl Liquidators fought the Chernobyl disaster. Eight hundred thousand (800,000) Liquidators from the former USSR, largely recruits from the army, with average age of 33, fought the Chernobyl disaster.

According to an interview (2016) with a Liquidator, “We were tasked with the deactivation of the third and fourth reactors, but we also helped build the containment sarcophagus. We worked in three shifts, but only for five to seven minutes at a time because of the danger. After finishing, we’d throw our clothes in the garbage” (Source: Return to Chernobyl With Ukraine’s Liquidators, Aljazeera, April 25, 2016).

“Estimates of the number of liquidators who died or became ill as a result of their work vary substantially, but the men of the 633rd say that out of the 259 from their group, 71 have died. Melnik says that 68 have been designated as invalids by a state committee, which investigates their health and determines whether or not their diseases are attributable to Chernobyl… Dr Dimitry Bazyka, the current director-general of the National Research Centre for Radiation Medicine in Kiev, says that approximately 20,000 liquidators die each year,” Ibid.

As for total deaths, the Chief Medical Officer of the Russian Federation reported that 10% of its Chernobyl Liquidators were dead by 2001. The disaster occurred in 1986 with 80,000 dead within 16 years. Authorities out of Ukraine and Belarus confirmed Russian death numbers. Yet, WHO claims 50 died.

Eighty-thousand (80,000) Liquidators, as of 16 years ago, dead from Chernobyl, and that body count, according to Ms Katz, leaves out the people most contaminated by Chernobyl, meaning evacuees and also 57% of the fallout for Chernobyl came down outside of the USSR, Belarus, and Ukraine, and in 13 European countries 50% of the countryside was dangerously contaminated.

As for studies of the radiation impact of Chernobyl: “Thousands of independent studies in Ukraine, Belarus, and the Russian Federation and in many other countries, that were contaminated to varying degrees by radionuclides, have established that there has been significant increase in all types of cancer, in diseases of the respiratory, gastrointestinal, urogenital, endocrine immune, lymph node nervous systems, prenatal, perinatal, infant child mortality, spontaneous abortions, deformities and genetic anomalies….” (Katz)

Hence, WHO’s handling and analysis and work on Chernobyl leaves the curious-minded speechless, open-mouthed, agape, and confounded……..http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/02/hidden-radiation-secrets-of-the-world-health-organization/

May 3, 2017 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Belarus, Reference, spinbuster, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Solar farm planned for Chernobyl nuclear site

Solar Plant to Launch at Chernobyl Nuclear Site  VOA, https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/solar-plant-chernobyl-nuclear-site/3828303.html Oksana Ligostova and Ruslan Deynychencko reported this story for VOA. Jonathan Evans adapted the report for Learning English. 27 Apr 17 Hai Do was the editor.Thirty years after the world’s worst nuclear disaster, Chernobyl is about to become a solar farm.

Officials in Ukraine plan to build a solar energy plant at the Chernobyl nuclear site. The announcement comes during the week of the 31st anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

The Chernobyl accident occurred on April 26, 1986. The incident would become the world’s worst nuclear accident. 32 people died and dozens of others suffered painful radiation burns.

Until recently, the government of Ukraine has largely ignored the area.

Ostap Semerak is Ukraine’s minister of ecology. He spoke with VOA about the planned solar project.

“Today, almost a year after we have started the work, I can announce the first private investment project working in the Chernobyl zone to build a small solar energy plant.”

Semerak says more than 50 national and international companies have expressed interest in building the solar plant. He adds that when completed, the project will produce about half the power produced by the Chernobyl nuclear plant.

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Belarus, renewable | Leave a comment

Belarus march against nuclear power on Chernobyl anniversary

 http://normangeestar.net/2017/04/29/belarus-march-against-nuclear-power-on-chernobyl-anniversary/ ClickLancashire Young Ukrainians hold candles during a ceremony near the memorial for “liquidators” who died during cleaning-up works after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster.

In 1990 the General Assembly adopted resolution 45/190, calling for “international cooperation to address and mitigate the consequences at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant”. Poisonous radiation spewed from the plant into the surrounding landscape, …
In the resolution, the Assembly recognized that “three decades after the Chernobyl disaster, the still-persistent serious long-term consequences thereof, as well as the continuing related needs of the affected communities and territories”. Now, the barren land is populated only by those workers involved…

“Today, nearly a year after we have started the work, I can announce the first private investment project working in the Chernobyl zone to build a small solar energy plant”, Ostap Semerak, Ukraine’s minister of ecology, said in an exclusive interview with VOA.

It’s projected to be completed in May. In 1986, more than 120,000 people were evacuated after an explosion at the plant.

In the years since the disaster, the radiation levels in the area near the plant have decreased enough where people can visit the area. The government recently lowered the cost of rent and streamlined renting procedures.

In 1990, Soviet Government acknowledged the need for global assistance against the explosion at Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant following which the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted resolution for worldwide cooperation to address and mitigate the consequences at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. A 30km exclusion zone remains in place.

May 1, 2017 Posted by | Belarus, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

Baltic states may block electricity from Belarus’s unfinished Astravets nuclear plant

text-NoBelarusian Nuke Plant Could Face Baltic Blockade http://www.tol.org/client/article/26725-nuclear-belarus-astravets-latvia-lithuania.html Lithuania seeks allies for plan to stop electricity generated by plant from entering European power market.  24 February 2017

The three Baltic states may be close to agreement on blocking electricity from Belarus’s unfinished Astravets nuclear plant from crossing their borders.

Lithuania has decided to prevent electricity from the plant from entering its market, and Estonia supports the policy, the Baltic Course reports.

Lithuania has been the fiercest opponent of the plant, which is being built at a site only 50 kilometers from Vilnius, and has been unhappy with Latvia’s less stringent approach.  Riga’s stance seems to have hardened, after its economy minister, Arvils Aseradens, met with Lithuanian Energy Minister Zygimantas Vaiciunas.

According to Vaiciunas, his counterpart agreed to evaluate the technical and economic consequences of the proposed ban on Astravets-generated electricity, LSM reports. So far Latvia has only insisted the highest security standards be implemented at the plant, which is scheduled to go online in 2019.

February 25, 2017 Posted by | Belarus, EUROPE, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

Belarus’s radiation tragedy of Chernobyl is only just developing

Exiled scientist: ‘Chernobyl is not finished, it has only just begun’

map-chernobyl

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/04/17/nuclear-exile-chernobyl-30th-anniversary/82896510/ YURY BANDAZHEVSKY DETAILED CHERNOBYL’S DEVASTATING IMPACT ON PEOPLE’S HEALTH, PARTICULARLY THAT OF CHILDREN, IN BELARUS. NOW HE LIVES IN EXILE WHILE THE GOVERNMENT INSISTS “EVERYTHING’S OK.”

Chernobyl through the eyes of an artist

Kim Hjelmgaard , USA TODAY Yury Bandazhevsky, 59, was the first scientist in Belarus to establish an institute to study Chernobyl’s impact on people’s health, particularly children, near the city of Gomel, about 120 miles over the border from Ukraine. He was arrested in Belarus in 1999 and sentenced to eight years in prison for allegedly taking bribes from parents trying to get their children admitted to his Gomel State Medical Institute. He denied the charges.

The National Academy of Sciences and Amnesty International say he was detained for his outspoken criticism of Belarus’ public health policies following the nuclear disaster. He was released in 2005 and given French citizenship, after rights groups took up his case along with the European Union, Britain, France and Germany. He now runs a medical and rehabilitation center outside Kiev dedicated to studying and caring for Chernobyl’s victims.

Here are his words, edited and condensed for clarity: 

KIEV, Ukraine — If you were told that a lot is already known in Ukraine and Belarus about what Chernobyl has done to these countries, than I can tell you that you are wrong. How can I put it? It is only after 30 years that we are starting to see the real impact. We can say for sure that Belarus was affected more. There was more radioactive fallout there. The doses the general population received were huge. My students and colleagues and I observed it when I arrived in Gomel in 1990 to organize the medical institute (now a university).

chernobyl-child-victims
At the first, we were observing the effects of the large doses because Gomel was located in the epicenter of this high level of contamination. Then we started to look at the accumulation of radioactive elements in internal organs at lower doses, children’s in particular. We were already seeing a complex pathology affecting the endocrine system (which produces hormones), the cardiovascular system and almost all the internal organs. This was work that had never been done in Belarus and has not been done since.

When I arrived in Ukraine in 2009, I did not find any serious objective source of information about the state of health of the children and people in the Ivankiv and Polesskiy regions (two areas that neighbor Chernobyl). There was no interest. We have now examined about 4,000 second-generation children and most of them have serious problems with their cardiovascular systems. I was starting to see the same thing in Belarus before I left. I am especially disturbed by irregularities I see in teenagers, in particular boys ages 12-17.

Several million people in Ukraine live on land contaminated by radiation, so we need to evaluate a very large number of people. But there are no such projects. You have to live among the people here to truly understand what is happening, because the problem is very complicated. I have even tried to send interested people to the cemetery in Ivankiv so they can see for themselves how many graves are there — many who died at a very young age. None of this is in the official statistics.

I don’t have any objective information about what is happening now with the health of children in Belarus. Everything is closed. The government says, ‘Everything’s OK, everything’s OK.’ But I get telephone calls from people in Gomel and they tell me that many of the children we were observing before I left have died. They were of different ages: 6, 12, 14. I will never forget appearing on television in Belarus with the president (Alexander Lukashenko). I was saying we were seeing very serious problems in children because of radiation, while he was saying ‘Everything’s OK.’ But I can’t touch this, because I can’t go there, or work there.

For me, the problem of Chernobyl is not finished, it has only just begun.

I am very much afraid that in one or two generations from now, the (descendants) of the population of Belarus and Ukraine that were affected by Chernobyl will vanish. I am afraid of that very much. I don’t want my countrymen to perish. It’s possible that help from the international community to understand what is going on is needed now, just as much as it was immediately after the accident.

December 6, 2016 Posted by | Belarus, health | Leave a comment

Public distrust inside and outside Belarus about troubled nuclear power project

safety-symbol1Controversial new nuclear plant ignites Belarus Thirty years after Chernobyl catastrophe, construction of new nuclear station on border with Lithuania stirs debate. Aljazeera by  Minsk, Belarus , 19 Oct 16, – Thirty years after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station devastated the countryside on the southern border of Belarus, leaving behind lasting consequences for millions of people, the construction of a new nuclear station is stirring discord between government officials, opposition politicians, the local populace and foreign diplomats.

The death of a 43-year-old Russian contractor last month, after an explosion at the Belarusian nuclear power plant (BelNPP) construction site near Astravets in northern Belarus on its border with Lithuania, is only the latest in a string of little-publicised incidents that has raised concerns at home and abroad about the how the station is being constructed.

On July 10 of this year, the 330-tonne reactor casing dropped from a height of between two and four metres in an incident that only came to the public’s attention two weeks later when a member of the Belarus United Civil Party, Mikalai Ulasevich, leaked the news to the local press.

The Ministry of Energy eventually released a statement acknowledging the incident, and Rosatom – the Russian state nuclear corporation and the primary contractor for the project, said that tests had revealed the dropped casing to be safe.

Concerns and opposition

However, with the memory of Chernobyl looming large, both the energy ministry and Rosatom, which agreed to replace the casing to “mitigate rumours and panic among the population” have so far failed to reassure all Belarusians of the station’s safety.

“They are building a crematorium,” Ulasevich says, driving through the rural village of Varniany where BelNPP’s stacks loom over the horizon.

“The only way to guarantee the safety of the plant is to cease its construction.”

Anti-BelNPP activists, including Ulasevich, are concerned by the government’s decision to build the plant in an ecologically pristine region of the country’s north, surrounded by agricultural land and lakes not affected by Chernobyl.

They have also accused the Belarusian government of violating both the Aarhus andEspoo environmental protection conventions in the planning and the construction of the station in Astravets……..

Threatened neighbour

News of the spate of accidents has been met with concern in neighbouring Lithuania. The country’s interior ministry recently indicated that plans were being drafted, in the event of an accident at Astravets, for the evacuation of the capital, Vilnius, which is only 50km from the BelNPP construction site.

Meanwhile, Lithuania has called for Belarus to carry out IAEA stress tests at the site, during which experts both from the EU and Lithuania may be present.

A Lithuanian delegation for the plant said that until the tests are carried out, Belarus should halt the construction work. In August, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite described the project as an “existential” threat to European security……..

Public mistrust

By June of this year, the Belarussian public was largely split on BelNPP. A poll conducted by the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies suggested that a slight majority – 35 percent or respondents – disapproved of the project.

Tatyana Korotkevich, who was an independent candidate in the country’s parliamentary elections in September, told Al Jazeera in her offices in central Minsk that Belarusians in her electorate feel their questions about the plant have not been sufficiently addressed by the government………

Who will profit?

Energy analysts and activists alike say that the government’s economic arguments for the station are outdated since the Belarusian economy entered into a decline that the World Bank forecasts will continue into 2017 [PDF].

They say there is little evidence to suggest that the country’s economy would benefit from or even require the energy surplus the $11bn BelNPP will produce.

Minsk, which in July owed Moscow almost $300m in energy debts, hopes its nuclear project will help to levy energy independence. But anti-nuclear activists and independent analysts note that Russia, the primary contractor, will be the sole supplier of fuel for the project once completed…..

Like thousands of Belarusians following Chernobyl, anti-nuclear activist Tanya Novikova was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She, like other anti-nuclear activists in Belarus, including Ulasevich, report having been detained and harassed in their opposition to the plant. But Novikova won’t be deterred, she told Al Jazeera.

“I personally know that the consequences of Chernobyl may be more scary, more dramatic than being arrested,” she said. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/09/controversial-nuclear-plant-ignites-belarus-160926094703537.html

October 19, 2016 Posted by | Belarus, safety | Leave a comment

Belarus – problems, secrecy, ignorance on nuclear unsafety

safety-symbol-SmMysteries Of The First Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant, Belarus Digest Lizaveta Kasmach06 September 2016 On 26 August 2016, a 43-year old worker was injured and killed as a result of the explosion of an oxygen gas tank at the Astraviec nuclear power plant (NPP) construction site.

A series of unfortunate events

Reports of incidents at the Astraviec construction site have been piling up in 2016, bringing more and more attention to the first Belarusian nuclear project. For instance, in April 2016, Poland-based TV channel Belsat reported the collapse of a supporting structure in one of the maintenance buildings on the site.

This death was the latest in a series of accidents which have already started to raise nuclear safety concerns, both domestically and internationally.

In July 2016, the Belarusian media reported another dangerous incident which occurred during the installation of a reactor. It also turned out that the NPP’s management had been concealing this news for more than two weeks. This lack of transparency is reminiscent of the suppressed news of the Chernobyl catastrophe back in 1986.

As a result, NPP construction has come under closer scrutiny and even the state-run media picked up the topic of nuclear security. However, all these events have not led to massive anti-nuclear protests in Belarus.

Despite the fact that an employee tipped off journalists, the NPP management responded by denying that the accident had even taken place and referred to the news as “absolute nonsense.” Later, the Belarusian Ministry of Energy nevertheless confirmed the accident, trying to downplay its severity.

Less than two months ago, authorities tried to conceal another, more serious accident which interrupted the installation of the nuclear reactor. On 10 July 2016, the reactor casing, weighing over 330 tonnes, reportedly fell to the ground from a height of 2 to 4 metres.

However, the wider public became aware of this disaster only on 25 July. Local anti-nuclear activist and United Civil Party member Mikalai Ulasevich reported that more than ten anonymous insider sources could confirm that something went wrong during the test lifting procedure……..

Lithuania also expressed its concerns. On 23 August, president Dalia Grybauskaite referred to the Belarusian NPP as an instrument which could potentially be used in an unconventional manner against the Baltic states. In her opinion, the Belarusian NPP potentially represented “an energy, military, health, and territorial security problem, if used by a hostile country.”

What about Belarusian environmentalists?  Belarusian environmentalists had already adopted a clear anti-nuclear position by 2005, when officials started mentioning plans for an NPP. In 2006, the Belarusian NGOEcodom, backed by the opposition parties, pioneered anorganised anti-nuclear movement. By 2008, major anti-nuclear initiatives united within the Belarusian Anti-Nuclear Campaign.

However, Belarusian authorities did everything possible to neutralise the dissenting green movement. For instance, during the so-called public debates on the NPP construction in October 2009, only a few anti-nuclear activists were allowed to attend. The event ended with the arrest of anti-nuclear expert Andrei Ozharovskii.

Moreover, the Institute of Sociology at the National Academy of Sciences produced surveys indicating a surprising turn in public opinion towards acceptance of nuclear energy. ……

Even though in 2016 the anti-nuclear movement has captured more attention, environmentalists fear that Belarusian society is dangerously naive when it comes to NPP construction. According to the coordinator of the Green Network association, Yaraslau Bekish, this explains why even serious accidents in Astraviec have not catalysed significant public protests.

So far, Belarusian authorities have succeeded in protecting their pet project in Astraviec. Neither Belarusian independent anti-nuclear activists nor the EU have the leverage to interfere in these plans. However, there is a chance that their voice could be heard if such emergencies and accidents continue in the future.   Lizaveta Kasmach is a PhD candidate at the University of Alberta, Canada. http://belarusdigest.com/story/mysteries-first-belarusian-nuclear-power-plant-27097

September 7, 2016 Posted by | Belarus, incidents, safety | Leave a comment

Dangerous errors at Belarus nuclear plant. Secrecy denounced by European neighbours

safety-symbol-SmBelarus under fire for ‘dangerous errors’ at nuclear plant
Neighbouring countries denounce ‘Soviet-style secrecy’ over accidents during energy site’s construction, RFE/RL reports,
Guardian, Tony Wesolowsky ,9 Aug 16, Thirty years after world’s worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl, Belarus, which saw a quarter of its territory contaminated in the disaster, is building its first energy plant powered by the atom.

However a series of mishaps at the site in Astravets are raising concerns over safety, particularly in Lithuania whose capital, Vilnius, lies less than 31 miles (50km) from the site.

In July it was reported by local news that a nuclear reactor shell had been dropped while being moved. Local resident Nikolai Ulasevich, who is a member of the opposition United Civic Party, claimed the 330-tonne shell had fallen from a height of 2-4m in preparation for installation.

Two weeks later the Belarusian Energy Ministry confirmed that an “emergency situation” had occurred at the construction site. It said that the incident took place at the warehouse facility, while the reactor was being moved.

The Russian state-owned company Rosatom, the nuclear plant’s main contractor, denied the reactor shell had been damaged, and should be installed as planned pending permission from supervisors.

Despite such assurances, the Belarusian deputy energy minister Mikhail Mikhadyuk has since reportedly said the installation of the reactor shell was being suspended pending further safety checks.

The Lithuanian foreign minister Linas Linkevicius said the lack of transparency on the part of Belarusian officials was unacceptable. “These incidents, happening from time to time, lack of transparency, we’re learning about them from open sources, usually too late…. This is not how it should be in reality. This last incident when a nuclear reactor vessel was possibly damaged is very dangerous,” he said…….

It’s not the first mishap at the construction site, nor the first time Belarusian officials have resisted divulging any details.

The structural frame of the nuclear service building at the site collapsed in April, as first reported by the Belsat independent TV station. According to the report, supervisors, under pressure to meet a deadline, ordered workers to pour too much concrete causing the structure to collapse.

No mention of the accident was made in the Belarusian state media or by officials, with the spokesman at the plant first denying anything had happened. In May, the Belarusian energy ministry, however, did confirm an “incident” had occurred during the pouring of concrete, but the “defect” had been dealt with………

Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite said in late July that Vilnius would work with the international community to block the plant coming online if Minsk failed to take steps to ensure international safety standards at the site…….https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/09/belarus-under-fire-for-dangerous-errors-at-nuclear-plant

August 10, 2016 Posted by | Belarus, safety | Leave a comment

Nuclear reactor installation mishap in Belarus

Belarus plant work suspended after installation mishap, WNN, 02 August 2016
Russia’s Rosatom has offered to replace the reactor shell its workers dropped during installation work last month at Belorussia’s first nuclear power plant, in Ostrovets, in the Grodno region. Meanwhile Mikhail Mikhadyuk, deputy energy minister of Belarus, has said a decision would be taken on the use of the equipment only after a thorough investigation of the “abnormal situation”……http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Belarus-plant-suspended-after-installation-mishap-02081601.html

August 5, 2016 Posted by | Belarus, safety | Leave a comment

Lithuania, and environmentalists not happy with Belarus’ nuclear power plan

flag-UkraineMinsk Letter: Belarus goes ahead with nuclear power, Irish Times,  Kieran Cooke in Minsk, 24 May 16, 

“…….Though Chernobyl is in Ukraine, it’s estimated that the prevailing winds resulted in up to 70 per cent of the radioactivity being deposited on Belarus, much of it in the southern region of the country, close to the Ukrainian border.

Undeterred by the legacy of Chernobyl – many here still suffer from cancers and other diseases as a result of what ranks as the world’s worst nuclear accident – Belarus is now building its own nuclear power plant……

The government – for more than 20 years under the firm grip of president Alexander Lukashenko – claims that more than 60 per cent of the country’s 9.5 million approve of the nuclear facility, though no nationwide poll has ever been taken…..

Government critics say no proper public hearings have been held about the plant, and that those who dare to raise objections have been harassed or arrested……..

Russian reliant

Critics point out that Belarus will still be reliant on Russia. A Russian state nuclear company has designed and is responsible for much of the construction. Russia will also supply the plant’s nuclear fuel – and deal with the waste.

Neighbouring Lithuania, always suspicious of a government in Minsk it sees as a remnant of the old Soviet order, is deeply concerned about what’s going on. It points out that the plant at Ostrovets is only 20km from the Lithuanian border and only 50km from Vilnius, the capital.

Officials in Vilnius say Belarus has not answered questions about the safety of Ostrovets and is in contravention of international agreements on nuclear facilities. The government in Minsk firmly denies the accusations.

Svetlana Alexievich, the Belarus author and winner of the 2015 Nobel prize for literature for her work on interviewing Chernobyl victims and other writings, has described the nuclear fallout from Chernobyl as an unimaginable disaster for her country.

Back at the new nuclear plant, due to become operational in two years, we are being bombarded with data. So many thousands of tons of concrete, so many tons of steel are being used in its construction.

“What happens if a missile is fired at the plant?” asks one journalist.

“Then we are all in trouble,” comes the reply. http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/minsk-letter-belarus-goes-ahead-with-nuclear-power-1.2658040

May 25, 2016 Posted by | Belarus, politics, Ukraine | Leave a comment