Minsk/Kiev - The first nuclear power station in Belarus, constructed with Russian assistance, will be ready by 2017, or earlier if possible, a government official said Tuesday.
Russia's state-run nuclear power company, Rosatom, is in the final stages of contract talks for the construction of an atomic energy plant in Belarus, and both sides are interested in accelerating the work, said company chairman Sergei Kirienko, according to Interfax news agency.
'We will try and get it done by the end of 2016,' he said at a press conference in Minsk. 'We are trying to save time every way we can.'
Ground preparation has been in progress for several months and actual construction will begin in September, said Mikhail Miasnikovich, Belarus vice premier.
Russian state engineers have begun drafting the station's design, despite the fact that no contract has yet been signed or money paid for the work, Kirienko said.
Kirienko's announcement of acceleration of Belarus' nuclear power project came five days after Miasnikovich met in Moscow with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who said the Kremlin would provide Belarus with a 6-billion-dollar loan to finance the project.
The four-reactor nuclear power station should be completed by 2025, according to Russian media reports.
Belarusian ecology protection activists have argued against bringing nuclear power to the country. Hundreds of square kilometres of forest and swamp in the south of Belarus remain uninhabitable because of fallout from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power accident.
Western anti-nuclear activists have raised concerns that the station to be built near Ostrovets village in Belarus' northern Hrodno province is only 45 kilometres from Lithuanian capital Vilnius, and could in case of an accident endanger neighbouring countries.
Authoritarian President Aleksander Lukashenko has scoffed at the worries, saying modern nuclear power is safe and Belarus needs to diversify its sources of energy.