Lithuanian EnvironMin sees Rosatom's explanations on Astravyets as ‘childish’

  • 2016-08-02
  • BNS/TBT Staff/Vilnius

Lithuania's Environment Minister Kestutis Treciokas has discounted as naïve the explanations received from the Russian company Rosatom, which is constructing the Astravyets nuclear power plant in Belarus, regarding a fallen reactor body. Treciokas believes that Belarus is continually attempting to hide all details or minimise these when unable to completely sweep them under the rug.

Alexander Lokshin, first deputy CEO of the Russian nuclear energy corporation, explained in an interview on Rosatom website that the incident at the Astravyets plant cannot be defined as a fall of the reactor body, because "the velocity of movement of the body did not exceed the velocity of a pedestrian."

"These are childish explanations — even if an object of 330 tons falls 10 centimetres to the ground, it is serious," Treciokas told BNS Lithuania on Monday.

The Rosatom statement claims that the situation was filmed on tape, but Treciokas noted that neither Belarus nor Rosatom have provided the Lithuanian Environment Ministry with any relevant materials.

"This is the usual way of communication — denial. When this is no longer possible, describing a major (incident) as a minor one, and describing a minor (incident) as nothing," Treciokas said.

Last Thursday, the Lithuanian government delivered a message to a Belarusian diplomat over the incident at the building site of the Astravyets nuclear utility. Lithuania's foreign, energy, and environment ministers also sent a letter to the European Commission's Vice-President Maros Sovic and Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete, informing them of the situation and requesting the EU's active involvement in the settlement of the nuclear safety matter.

Meanwhile, political scientist Ramunas Vilpisauskas has told the national television LRT that Lithuania would benefit from naming a politically neutral individual for issues regarding Astravyets.

According to Vilpisauskas, the most significant conflict currently is in connection to the traditional search of guilty parties for this advanced stage of the utility’s development.

"I believe it would be far more constructive to reach agreement at the parliament, include the president in the issue and appoint a person, for instance, as the case was with the Aleksandras Abisala-led commission for negotiations of the consequences of the closure of the (Lithuanian) Ignalina nuclear plant. In my opinion, it would be just as useful now to have a single politically neutral individual enjoying trust of all main figures in Lithuania … to formulate a common position," said Vilpisauskas, the director of the Vilnius University's International Relations and Political Science Institute.

The most recent reports on the Astravyets situation have come in a number of possible incidents at the Belarusian utility, several of which have been confirmed by the Belarusian Energy Ministry. Lithuania has been denouncing Belarus for failing to be vigilant in its safety standards during the construction process. Minsk has discounted the criticism as unfounded.

The nuclear utility is being constructed approximately 50 kilometres from Lithuania's capital Vilnius, with the launch of its first reactor expected to take place at the end of 2018.