Lithuania to sign nuclear incident notification agreement with Belarus this month

  • 2020-05-12
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuania plans to sign an agreement on early notification of a nuclear accident with Belarus later this month, Lithuania's State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate (VATESI) told BNS on Tuesday.

Its chief Michail Demcenko says the agreement, which has been coordinated for several years now, will not change Lithuania's critical attitude to the Astravyets nuclear power plant but is important to ensure the safety of people in Lithuania.

"We were notified today in the morning that on the Belarusian side that agreement has been signed by the minister of emergency situations, and the originals are travelling towards our side via diplomatic channels. (…) We have already informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs so that they hand it over as soon as possible. As far as I understand, it's a matter of days. As soon as we receive it, the plan is, with no doubt, to sign that agreement since all texts have been coordinated long ago," Demcenko said.

In his words, having signed such an agreement, states undertake to directly inform about nuclear incidents.

"We have waited for that agreement so long since, first of all, it's a matter of ensuring the safety of people in Lithuania. Since the sooner we learn about that potential incident, the better it would be for everyone as it would be better to protect people. Naturally, that, we can say, theoretical possibility of an incident is very low, all the more that of a major incident, but under all international requirements, that emergency preparation has to exist. (…) Such an agreement is essential," the VATESI chief said.

In his words, Lithuania had called on Belarus to sign the agreement before nuclear fuel was delivered to the Astravyets nuclear power plant. He says only Minsk can say why the signing of that document has taken so long.

"We have long been calling for that to happen before the delivery of fuel to the Belarusian territory. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. (…) Last week, practically soon after that fuel delivery took place, we received indications from their ministry, from that nuclear and radiation safety department, and the so called Gosatomnadzor that there's a wish and readiness to sign that agreement. And this morning we were notified that such an agreement was signed by the Belarusian side on May 8," Demcenko said.

The requirement to inform about nuclear incidents also applies to Lithuania which is decommissioning its Ignalina nuclear power plant.

The VATESI chief also said that Lithuania's objection to the Astravyets nuclear plant built close to Vilnius remains unchanged, adding that Minsk has in fact not provided answers to key questions, including the one regarding the selection of the site for this facility.

"Practically, all initial questions we started raising in 2009 when we received that first impact assessment report (remain unanswered – BNS). And we started from the evaluation of that site selection, whether it is suitable or not for a nuclear plant. Of course, the very first question is on that closeness to Vilnius, which the Belarusian side has not provided a satisfactory answer so far," the VATESI chief said.