Belarus nuclear power plant 'worries' Lithuania

Plans by Belarus to build a nuclear power plant 50 kilometres away from Vilnius are a worry for Lithuania, the country's foreign minister, Audronius Azubalis, told EurActiv in an exclusive interview.

The lack of information regarding plans by Belarus, Lithuania's Eastern neighbour, to build a nuclear power plant close to the common border is a cause for concern, Azubalis said.

The minister said his country was raising concerns over the issue in the framework of Nordic-Baltic Cooperation, a format which involves Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland.

The press has indeed reported plans by Belarus to commission a nuclear power plant, but information remains scarce. An official website says that Belarus is now in talks with corporations from France, Japan and South Korea, while maintaining its partnership with the Russian Federation.

"Any country would [voice concerns] if it were unable to find the proper answers to its concerns according to the Espoo Convention [the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context] and according to IAEA requirements," Azubalis said.

The minister said Lithuania was not against its neighbour developing nuclear energy - indeed, Vilnius is also planning to replace its Ignalina power plant, which was closed in 2009 after EU pressure.

But he insisted that Belarus should follow the same standards of transparency and international good practice as other countries.

Asked about Russia's plans to build a nuclear power plant in Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania, Azubalis said the project was "purely political".

"For the time being, we hear slogans, 'we are going to build' and 'we are building'. But [...] we [still] don't have the environmental impact assessments. The same as in Belarus," he said.

Azubalis denied that his country had also taken a political stance with regard to the Nord Stream gas pipeline. He said the pipeline, the construction of which has begun with the EU's blessing, had ignored environmental concerns, including in Germany, where in his words the Green Party was strongly opposed.

Azubalis said his country was taking energy security very seriously, as Lithuania, like Latvia and Estonia, was not yet interconnected with the continental European grid.

"We are members of the EU and we should belong to the Union's electricity network. By using Russian electricity we could never become members of the club," Azubalis said.

The minister also spoke extensively about Lithuania's positions on the EU's long-term budget, EU-Russia relations, preventing echoes of communism from reappearing and democratising Central Asia.


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