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2020.11.10 10:00

Incident reported at Belarus nuclear plant days after launch

LRT.lt2020.11.10 10:00

Belarus’ nuclear plant in Astravyets, some 50 kilometres from Vilnius, suffered a technical incident that put the facility out of operation, according to sources of the country’s independent media outlet TUT.by.

Lithuania’s transmission system operator, Litgrid, confirmed to BNS that the plant has been out of operation since Sunday midday. The nuclear plant started producing electricity on November 3, just five days before the incident.

Belarus’ Alexander Lukashenko took part in the opening of the plant on November 6, where he said the launch of the Astravyets NPP was as “ordinary” as building a metro.

According to sources at TUT.by, several voltage-measuring transformers outside of the nuclear reactor exploded during the incident.

On Monday, the Belarusian Energy Ministry said that “a need to replace the measuring equipment arose” during testing.

The radiation levels in Lithuania are normal, according to Ramunė Stasiūnaitienė from the country’s Radiation Protection Centre.

“Residents have no reason to be concerned or take their iodide tablets,” she told LRT RADIO.

Read more: Vilnius hands out iodide pills as Belarus nuclear plant nears completion

Lithuania’s State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate (VATESI) said the plant is still undergoing testing. However, “we have also received no information about the [planned] next steps to launch the plant”, VATESI told BNS in a written comment.

Lithuania has been one of the most ardent critics of the nuclear plant built by the Russian state atomic corporation Rosatom and funded by a loan from the Kremlin.

Vilnius says the plant is unsafe and was built in breach of international safety standards. Minsk denies all allegations.

To prepare for the launch of the plant, Lithuania has staged evacuation drills in the border areas, located less than 20 kilometres from the nuclear plant. The country has also ceased all electricity trade with Belarus, a move that Moscow called “discriminatory”.

Read more: Moscow accuses Lithuania of discrimination, calls not to limit electricity trade

The Baltic states are gearing up to switch from the Russian-controlled BRELL electricity grid that also includes Belarus, and synchronise with the continental European system by 2025.