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An emigrant’s memory of Chernobyl

Chernobyl’s dark history: Australian returns home 33 years after the world’s worst nuclear disaster, News 7  Steve Pennells  15 September 2019

Chernobyl – just the word is enough to evoke visions of a nuclear holocaust.

But for thousands of Australians, the nightmare was all too real. They are the children of Chernobyl – scarred by their experiences – and now, more than 30 years on, determined to confront the past.

Inna Mitelman grew up in Belarus, in the shadow of Chernobyl. 33 years later, she’s happily settled in Melbourne with two children of her own. Her parents, Irina and Ilia, live close by.

“I remember it as a very beautiful place to grow up,” Inna tells Sunday Night’s Steve Pennells. “The people were lovely. I had a very beautiful childhood, I can tell you that much.”

For Inna, it was an idyllic existence, with her best friend Natasha living in the apartment right next door.

“We were pretty much inseparable,” Inna explains. “Our parents were very close friends, they were like family. We used to come into each other’s houses without knocking. My house was her house, her house was my house.”

Chernobyl was 100 kilometres away – but on the 26th of April 1986, that was much too close.

The explosion in Reactor Number 4 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant would be the worst nuclear accident in history. A safety test gone wrong ruptured the reactor core and caused a fire that released vast clouds of radioactive contamination. But the Soviet authorities supressed the true scale of the disaster – and only after 36 hours was the order given to evacuate the nearby city of Pripyat, home to the power plant workers and their families.

Inna Mitelman was only 11 years old when the refugees from Pripyat arrived on her doorstep, but the memory is still vivid.

“The first thing I remember is seeing new kids in our yard in the morning when we walked out to go to school,” Inna recalls. “There were wrapped up in blankets.”

As the fire continued to rage in the reactor, badly injured power plant workers and fireman were brought to the Pripyat hospital.

Today, the hospital at Pripyat stands abandoned, like the rest of this once-thriving city. But 33 years ago, the reactor was spewing out 400 times more radioactive material than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs combined.

Sergii Mirnyi soon learnt the truth. He was the commander of a radiation reconnaissance unit. It was his job to seek out the worst of the hot zones……..

“I’ve got thyroid nodules which were discovered when I was pregnant with my second child,” Inna reveals. “The surgeon said I’ve got [a] 50 per cent chance of developing thyroid cancer, so let’s just get it out now.”

Now, Inna wants to return to her homeland, to understand a tragic event from her past that still haunts her.

“I’m terrified,” Inna admits. “There’s a reason why we haven’t been back. But you need to do this to confront it and deal with it and move on. Because the worst thing that ever happened to me [was] probably my best friend dying when I was 11, and I think having to deal with that freaks me out as well.”

“We first found out that something was wrong with her when she became cross-eyed. They found a brain tumour, they operated, but she died the next morning.”

“This was my best friend. This was the person that I grew up with. Her death, it destroyed me.”

Natasha’s family moved out after the death of their daughter. But Inna is determined to find them.

Inside the exclusion zone

2,500 square kilometres of contaminated territory – including Pripyat – are now abandoned after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

Pripyat was a brand new city, right next to the nuclear power plant. It was a jewel in the Soviet crown, with a thriving population of 50,000 people. It was emptied in the course of a single day, with residents forced to leave with only what they could carry…….

For many new mothers here in Belarus, there’s a profound fear that the effects of Chernobyl might be passed on to a second generation.

At the local Children’s Hospital, chief doctor Irina Kalmanovich has been treating Chernobyl survivors for more than 30 years. She has no doubt she is still seeing children suffering from the disaster – and unlike other doctors in this repressive regime, she’s willing to risk saying it.

“It’s my opinion. It can be [a] result of Chernobyl because we have many patients even in our hospital, children with tumour, different parts of body, we have tumour of brain, leukaemia, so we have many patients.”……. https://7news.com.au/sunday-night/chernobyls-dark-history-australian-returns-home-33-years-after-the-worlds-worst-nuclear-disaster-c-454567

September 16, 2019 Posted by | Belarus, PERSONAL STORIES | Leave a comment

Belarus’ forgotten children – victims of Chernobyl’s nuclear radiation

Kevin Barry in Chernobyl: ‘Misha is an example of what happens when a country is on its knees’  Irish Examiner, August 05, 2019 

In 2000 the Irish Examiner sent Kevin Barry, now longlisted for the Booker Prize for his novel Night Boat to Tangier, to Chernobyl. Here we reproduce what he reported

Misha photographed by Eugene Kolzov at the No 1 orphanage in Minsk.Misha, aged seven, is the victim of not one but many sicknesses. His physical disorders, as can be plainly seen, are many and various.

But Misha is the victim of another ailment too, a kind of compassion deficiency.

Chernobyl isn’t fashionable these days, it’s been around so long now. April 26, 1986 seems a long time in the way-distant past. After the initial blurt of paranoia and charitable outreach, the fickle gaze of public interest quickly flicked from the incident at Reactor No 4 to fresher horrors.

Misha, then, has been shuffled way back in the compassion pack. He has fallen behind the other ravaged children who sombrely people the planet’s trouble spots, in places like Mozambique and Ethiopia.

He’s competing with Rwanda and Chechnya. And it’s beginning to tell Misha’s illness is a direct consequence of the Chernobyl explosion.

The radioactive danger in Belarus is not so much in the air now as in the food chain. Professor Yuri Bandashevsky, a dissident scientist, told the Irish Examiner this week that the mutations caused by radiation in children like Misha have by now entered the gene pool and thus the effects of the ‘86 explosion can stretch to infinity.

After criticising the state’s alleged misspending of research money for Chernobyl, Professor Bandashevsky recently found himself banged up in jail for five months, bound at the feet.

Which isn’t the sort of thing that bodes well for the likes of Misha. Some aid continues to filter through. This week, a convoy run by the Chernobyl Children’s Project has been on a drive through Belarus, dispensing almost £2 million in food and medicines.

One of the institutions the orphanage supports is Novinki, a children’s asylum on the outskirts of Minsk. Such is its Dickensian squalor, its actual existence was long denied by the state. This is where you’ll find little Misha.

Project leader Adi Roche says she has known the child since he was a baby, but has been stunned at his deterioration since she last visited in December.

After finding him emaciated and dying this week, the project has placed a Dublin nurse and a local Chernobyl nurse on 24-hour care alert with Misha, an attempt to make whatever is left of his life as painless as possible

“We don’t know how long Misha will live, or if he will live, but we are morally obliged to do everything in our power to attempt saving his life,” said Ms Roche last night.

“‘He is not the only child in Belarus suffering as horrifically as this. he’s just one of many.” she added. “‘These children are the victims of 14 years of neglect by the international community.”’

Many children in Belarus consigned to mental asylums have no mentaI handicap. “All orphaned children with any kind of disability are put into mental asylums if they live beyond the age of four,” she said.

Meanwhile, staffed by1,000 workers, the Chernobyl plant continues operate a couple of kilometres inside the Ukraine border.

The authorities say it will close this year. The concrete sarcophagus built to contain contamination from the reactor has 200 holes and counting.

Orphans of the nuclear age

Kevin Barry, in Chernobyl, finds a land and its people scarred by a disaster from which they may never recover.

Chernobyl at this time of year is beautiful, the borderlands of the Ukraine and Belarus a pastoral and idyllic place. Vast swardes of rich woodland are full of babbling brooks and twittering songbirds, every way you turn, there’s a postcard vista to please even the most jaded eyes.

The locals, however, are edgy. The President of Belarus, Alaksandr Lukashenko — aka ‘Batska’ (‘The Father’) — has decreed that the farmlands here–abouts are now safe to plant and he’s threatening to fly overhead and make sure the workers are toiling.

If not, he says, there will be trouble. Big trouble.

The notion of Batska in an airplane is enough to prompt sleepless nights for those who remain in the Purple Zone, the area most contaminated by the accident in 1986 at Smelter No 4 of the nuclear plant that lies inside the Ukranian border.

In a tragedy of happenstance, because there was a stiff northerly gusting that day, Belarus took the brunt of the damage and because radioactivity is most lethal when it attacks developing human systems, children have borne most of the pain.

But for these children, the most serious ailment is not the thyroid cancer or the leukaemia or the heart trouble or the kidney failure or the various disorders of colon and spleen prompted by Chernobyl.

The greatest danger is the compassion-fatigue. 1986 seems a long time ago now and the incident at Smelter No 4 is no longer swaddled in the necessary event-glamour or crisis-chatter.

When the evening news is an atrocity exhibition, when daily there are hellish dispatches from Mozambique, Ethiopia and Chechnya, the Belarussians fall ever further back in the line.

The foreign correspondents have long since moved on elsewhere. The story of a child developing thyroid cancer over a period of years doesn’t conform neatly with the sound-byte culture.

By this stage, the Belarussians have had enough. A condition of mass denial exists in the country and a native of the village Solchechy in the Purple Zone says that up to around 1993, everybody fretted and freaked out but then they decided, well, to hell with it.

“The mess got to be too much,” she says.

We don’t think about it now. Life is life and we try to get on with it.

This is easier said than done in Belarus. The country’s economy is shot — agriculture was its mainstay and since Chernobyl, the income from farming has been negligible. Almost 30% of the country’s annual turnover goes to the clean-up operation.

Belarus remains the most Soviet of states. There are thickly-piled layers bureaucracy and this tangle of demented protocol regulations and petty restrictions is amorphic, constantly shape-shifting.

The natives have had to develop a stoic acceptance of a hard frustrating life…….. https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/views/analysis/kevin-barry-in-chernobyl-misha-is-an-example-of-what-happens-when-a-country-is-on-its-knees-941735.html

August 6, 2019 Posted by | Belarus, children, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference | Leave a comment

Belarus nuclear physicist warns on the unsafety of new nuclear plant

Nuclear physicist about Chernobyl / ENG subs

Professor Heorhi F. Lepin, a physicist, co-chairman of the public association ‘Scientists For A Nuclear-Free Belarus’, who took part in the rectification of the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, warns the Belarusians against launching the nuclear power plant in Astravets. https://belsat.eu/en/?p=1108658

According to him, the site chosen is no good and even dangerous – once an earthquake happened on the spot; there is an intersection of crust fractures. However, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka called the scientists who are critical of nuclear-power engineering and particularly the Astravets NPP ‘undercover bandits’ and ‘enemies of the people’, Lepin stressed. The Belarusian NPP with two VVER-1200 reactors with a total capacity of 2,400 MW is being built according to the Russian project near Astravets in the Hrodna region. The first power unit is scheduled to be commissioned in 2019, the second one — in 2020. Subscribe to our channels:

June 29, 2019 Posted by | Belarus, safety | Leave a comment

Anxiety over’Belarus nuclear reactor starting up: Lithuania buys iodine tablets

Lithuania to purchase 4 mln iodine tablets to use in case of BelNPP accident, Belsat, 28 June 19  The Lithuanian Ministry of Health will spend about one million euros on 4 million iodine tablets to be used in case of an accident at the Belarusian NPP. This year they should be distributed to residents of the Belarusian-Lithuanian borderland and Vilnius, ru.delfi.lt reports.

Minister of Internal Affairs of Lithuania Eimutis Misiūnas assures that the state institutions are ready for a possible accident at the nuclear power plant in Astravets. But he is not hiding the fact that the agency lacks coordination….

According to him, in case of “the worst scenario”, when the wind blows from east to west, Lithuania will have to evacuate about 20 thousand people in the 30 km zone of the nuclear power plant. Misiūnas believes that this is unlikely, as such weather conditions happen on average 16 days per year.

The first power unit of BelNPP will start operating in autumn. https://belsat.eu/en/news/lithuania-to-purchase-4-mln-iodine-tablets-to-use-in-case-of-belnpp-accident/

June 29, 2019 Posted by | Belarus, health, politics | Leave a comment

Breathtaking series on Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe


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Foxtel Showcase 12 June 8.30 pm and 10.30 pm)

Chernobyl: horrifying, masterly television that sears on to your brain. This breathtaking series throws us right into the hellish chaos of the nuclear disaster – and its terrors are unflinching and unforgettable, Guardian, Rebecca Nicholson,  29 May 2019 After three of its five episodes aired, the miniseries Chernobyl found its way to the top of IMDB’s top 250 TV shows in history list. While the fan-voted chart might seem hyperbolic, given that the drama had only just crossed the halfway point, it is not undeserving of the honour. Chernobyl is masterful television, as stunning as it is gripping, and it is relentless in its awful tension, refusing to let go even for a second. That old ‘don’t spoil the ending’ joke about Titanic will inevitably be rebooted here, but it is confident enough to withstand any familiarity with the story.

May 30, 2019 Posted by | Belarus, incidents, Resources -audiovicual, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Chernobyl’s “liquidators” suffered acute, and long-term health effects

 

May 30, 2019 Posted by | Belarus, health | Leave a comment

Lithuania wants Belarus to convert its Russian-built nuclear power plant to gas

Lithuania to ask Belarus to switch nuclear plant to gas VILNIUS (Reuters) 6 Mar 19, – Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis will ask Belarus to convert its Russian-built nuclear power plant to gas provided by Lithuania’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal and a planned gas link between Lithuania and Poland.

The nearly-completed nuclear plant has long been viewed as a threat to its safety and national security by Lithuania, which says it is not built to the highest safety standards, an allegation which is denied by Belarus.

Astravets, which is near the border with Lithuania, is being built by Russia’s Atomstroyexport and financed with a $10 billion loan from by Moscow. It expects to have the first of its two 1.2 gigawatt VVER 1200 reactors online this year and the next one in 2020.

It’s up to Belarus to make a choice: to keep on having an energy sector which depends on the policies of a single country, or to make a strategic change,” Skvernelis said on Monday, without naming Russia, the dominant supplier of energy to Belarus.

Lithuania could be a good example and a useful partner for Belarus,” he added.,………

Reporting by Andrius Sytas; Editing by Alexander Smith https://www.reuters.com/article/us-baltics-energy/lithuania-to-ask-belarus-to-switch-nuclear-plant-to-gas-idUSKCN1QL163

March 7, 2019 Posted by | Belarus, politics international | Leave a comment

If USA US deploys nuclear weapons in Europe RUSSIA and Belarus will consider a joint military response

‘Things will turn NASTY’ Belarus leader issues warning after collapse of nuclear treaty https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1090969/belarus-news-inf-treaty-world-war-3-russia-v-usa-nato

RUSSIA and Belarus will consider a joint military response if the US deploys weapons in Europe after pulling out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

By SIMON OSBORNE, Feb 22, 2019 Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said he fears “things will turn nasty” should the US decision spark a new arms race at a time of increasing global tensions. The US and Soviet Union signed the INF treaty in 1987 in an historic move that effectively removed nuclear weapons from Europe and signalled the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

But Donald Trump has pulled the US out of the accord after accusing Russia of committing repeated violations and Mr Lukashenko fears the security of Belarus could be compromised as a result.

He said: “It is a catastrophe, particularly for us.

“I am afraid the Americans will grab the fleeting opportunity and deploy the missiles in Europe after breaking the treaty. “If they do, things will turn nasty for us, too. Because together with Russia, we will have to think of reciprocal measures.”

He continued: “It would be unavoidable if this happened. It would be even worse if, God forbid, missiles were deployed in Ukraine.

“This is why I am wholeheartedly against dissolving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

“We pursue a peace-loving policy. We don’t need scuffles between major powers, from which, judging from history, we’ve always suffered.

“This is why we don’t need this slaughter, this fight, particularly now around the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.”

Mr Lukashenko said he believes NATO is keen to deploy missiles in Europe.

He said: “It seems to me that although NATO claims they are not going to deploy these missiles in Europe, they are running a bluff.

“Otherwise, why would they withdraw? Why did they have to destroy this treaty?

“They should have come to terms with China and make it part of the treaty if China was the focus of it.”

February 23, 2019 Posted by | Belarus, politics international, Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

TOR-M2 air defense missile systems to protect Belarus nuclear power plant

  https://www.armyrecognition.com/december_2018_global_defense_security_army_news_industry/tor-m2_air_defense_missile_systems_to_protect_belarus_nuclear_power_plant.html

December 2018 Global Defense Security army news industryPOSTED, 08 DECEMBER 2018  A battery of Tor-M2 SAM (Surface-To-Air defense missile system) produced by Concern Almaz-Antey will enter in service with the 1146th Guards surface-to-air missile regiment deployed near a Belarusian nuclear power plant, which is under construction, Major General Igor Golub, the commander of the Air and Air Defense Forces of the Belarusian Armed Forces, said.

“Russia will supply another battery of Tor-M2 surface-to-air missile systems soon. They will come in service with the 1146th Guards surface-to-air missile regiment,” the commander quoted by the Belorusskaya Voennaya Gazeta military newspaper said.

Previous reports said that Concern Almaz-Antey had handed over a shipment of Tor-M2 surface-to-air missiles to the Belarusian Defense Ministry ahead of time. They had been assembled a month ahead of schedule. Belarus has received the fifth SAM shipment.

The 1146th surface-to-air regiment was revived in Belarus in 2017. The four-battery regiment is armed with Tor-M2 surface-to-air missiles. It protects the Belarusian airspace in the northwest covering the Belarusian nuclear power station.

The Tor-M2 is an upgraded version of the Tor-M1 short-range air defense missile system. The TOR-M2/M2E is designed by the Russian Defense Company Almaz-Antey. The TOR-M2 / M2E is designed to destroy aircraft, helicopters, aerodynamic UAVs, guided missiles and other components of high precision weapons flying at medium, low and extremely low altitudes in adverse air and jamming environment. The Tor-M2 missile system can be mounted on wheeled or tracked chassis.

The Tor-M2 can simultaneously engage up to 48 processed targets and ten tracked targets.The TOR-M2 can engage a target at the range from 1,000 to 12,000 m and to an altitude from 10 to 10,000 m.

December 10, 2018 Posted by | Belarus, safety | Leave a comment

Mushrooms contaminated with radioactive cesium 137 stopped by France, – shipment from Belarus

France stops large shipment of radioactive Belarus mushrooms, Geert De Clercq, PARIS (Reuters), 30 Nov 17 – France has stopped a large shipment of Belarus mushrooms contaminated with low-level radioactivity probably from Chernobyl and not linked to a radioactive cloud that appeared in southern Russia last month, officials said on Thursday.

Earlier, the head of French nuclear regulator ASN Pierre-Franck Chevet told the French senate that traces of cesium had been found on imported mushrooms from Russia and did not mention Belarus.

A spokesman for French nuclear safety institute IRSN said that a few days ago customs officials found that a 3.5 tonne shipment of Belarus mushrooms coming through Frankfurt, Germany was contaminated with cesium 137, a radioactive nuclide that is a waste product of nuclear reactors…….https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-nuclearpower-accidentedf/france-stops-large-shipment-of-radioactive-belarus-mushrooms-idUSKBN1DU1CW

December 1, 2017 Posted by | Belarus, environment | Leave a comment

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

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