Belarus' N-plant stress tests fail to answer Lithuania's key questions - watchdog

  • 2017-12-17
  • LETA/TBT Staff

VILNIUS - Belarus' stress tests report on the Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) under construction some 50 kilometers from Vilnius fails to provide answers to Lithuania's key questions regarding site selection, environmental impact assessment and construction safety or quality, the Lithuanian State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate (VATESI) said.

Belarus has submitted its national stress tests report on the plant to the European Commission for review.

"It has to be understood that the selection of the site has been the key issue for Lithuania and this issue is not covered in these stress tests," Sigitas Slepavicius, deputy head for nuclear safety at VATESI, told BNS.

"This means that the question remains unanswered, as are other questions regarding environmental impact assessment, the quality of construction and operation, ensuring of safety culture and other issues of importance to Lithuania, which will not be evaluated in this review," he said.

Slepavicius will head a group of Lithuanian specialists who will analyze Belarus' national stress tests report. The European Commission has also set up a group of nuclear safety experts.

The Lithuanian team has until January 5 to prepare their comments and questions about the report and forward them to the EU's executive body.

"Since the review of the stress test report has its own structure and takes place according to the approved requirements, we have to evaluate based on these. Since site selection is not covered there, we won't be able ask these questions. But that means nothing. These questions remain in place," the official said.

The European Commission will sum up EU member states' comments and questions and will submit them to Belarus. The EU's executive body will make its final assessment only after it receives Belarus' answers to the questions asked. Slepavicius expects a final assessment to be made in June.

The stress tests  were performed by Atomproekt, a subsidiary of Russia's Rosatom, the Astravyets project's main contractor, in 2016.

Lithuanian government officials have said that the tests fail to provide answers to all questions and call for tests to be conducted based on the EU methodology. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius said last month that the stress tests did not prove that the nuclear facility was being built safely.

In an effort to hinder the project, Lithuania plans to block the import of electricity from the Astravyets plant.