Belarus wants Ignalina

  • 2002-05-02
  • Agence France-Presse

Belarus could take over Lithuania's Chernobyl-type nuclear power plant Vilnius is set to shut down in coming years, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka said April 26 on the 16th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in nearby Ukraine.

Belarus specialists had already contacted Lithuanian authorities to offer to take over the Ignalina plant, located near Lithuania's border with Belarus, Lukashenka added.

The specialists "have contacted (the Lithuanian authorities) with an offer to study several options regarding a takeover and the Belarusian authorities are not ruling out such a possibility. In fact, they are considering it," Lukashenka said, without specifying how the takeover would be carried out.

Lithuania, as a part of its preparations for European Union membership, has committed to shutting down the first of two units at Ignalina by 2005 and plans to propose a tentative date for complete closure of the plant in the near future.

Meanwhile, some 3,000 people held an opposition-sponsored rally in Minsk on the same day to protest against what they said was Lukashenko's failure to efficiently fight against the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster.

The explosion of the nuclear power plant, the world's worst nuclear accident, had cost Belarus $250 billion, and the country has spent $134 million in 10 years to reverse the effects of the disaster, according to Belarus authorities.

The explosion and radiation are already believed to have caused the deaths of between 15,000 and 30,000 people.