VILNIUS - Lithuanian authorities will conduct next month an exercise to test their readiness to respond to a potential nuclear accident at Belarus' Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant, involving an evacuation drill in and around Vilnius and the giving out of iodine tablets, Interior Minister Rita Tamasuniene said on Thursday.
The exercise will be cover six municipalities, including the city of Vilnius, on October 1 through 4 and will involve the government's office, the Interior Ministry and other authorities, the minister told the Ziniu Radijas radio.
"We will test how state and municipal emergency response centers operate and provide information to the population. Iodine prophylaxis, which is very important in protecting human health, will be simulated as well," the minister said.
The nuclear accident response readiness drill will also involve an evacuation exercise, she added.
According to the minister, the aim of the drill is not to intimidate members of the public, but to alert and inform them about appropriate actions in the event of a nuclear emergency.
On the morning of the first day of the exercise, sirens will sound across the municipalities and residents will receive warning messages. Information will be broadcast on LRT Television and Radio and published on the LT72 emergency preparedness website.
The State Border Protection Service and other relevant bodies will get involved on the second and third days. Samples of soil, drinking water and food products will be taken and analyzed at laboratories as part of the drill.
The results of the exercise will be discussed on the fourth day.
"We want people to remain calm and understand that this is an exercise," the minister said.
Experts from Estonia, Latvia, Poland, the United Kingdom, Romania are also planning to participate in the exercise which will cover the city and district of Vilnius, and the districts of Svencionys, Salcininkai, Kalvarija and Zarasai.
The Lithuanian government says the Astravyets plant under construction some 50 kilometers from Vilnius and less than 30 kilometers from the Lithuanian border fails to meet international safety and environmental standards, an allegation that Minsk denies.