Lithuania expects to sign an agreement with Belarus on cooperation and exchange of information on nuclear accidents before the first nuclear fuel delivery to the Astravyets nuclear power plant, the head of the Lithuanian State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate (VATESI) said on Monday.
Belarus' nuclear safety body has sent a draft agreement to VATESI and is now waiting for the Lithuanian watchdog to say if it will sign the document, the Russian news agency Interfax reported, citing Olga Lugovskaya, head of the Belarus's Nuclear and Radiation Safety Department.
VATESI Head Michail Demcenko said this was a technical document regarding early notification of a nuclear accident.
"This is about an agreement on early notification of potential nuclear accidents. Talks on it have been underway for a long time already and we hope it to be signed before the delivery of nuclear fuel to Belarus," he told BNS.
Despite efforts by the parties to separate the information exchange process from political processes, the talks have been somewhat hampered by the tension between Belarus and Lithuania over the Astravyets safety, Demcenko said.
Lugovskaya confirmed on Monday that Belarus had sent its latest proposal for cooperation and exchange of information on nuclear safety.
"Our Lithuanian colleagues should discuss it (the proposal) and tell us if they are ready to sign the agreement," she told reporters in Sochi.
No date has been set for the first nuclear fuel delivery to Astravyets as the date of the launch of the first reactor has been delayed until this autumn. Belarusian Deputy Energy Minister Mikhail Mikhadyuk says fuel for the first reactor will be delivered at least a month before the launch.
Russia's state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom is building Belarus' first nuclear power facility near Astravyets, a town just 23 kilometers from the Lithuanian border. The plant, which is being financed by the Russian government, will have two Russian-made VVER reactors with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts each.
Vilnius' position unchanged
Lithuanian Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas says Vilnius' position regarding the safety of the Astravyets nuclear power plant remains unchanged, but it is necessary to prepare for all scenarios.
“The agreement that is being currently negotiated is an agreement on notification of potential nuclear accidents. Of course, we can do nothing and make no preparations for such a scenario, but this nuclear power plant can be launched eventually and operate without such an agreement in place. Then we'll have no procedure for notifying us,” he told the radio Žinių Radijas.
The minister said the planned agreement was an instrument to ensure security and better prevent accidents.
“We, Lithuania, will be at greater risk if we don't have such agreements,” he said.
Vaičiūnas noted that Latvia had already signed such an agreement with Belarus.