Belarus may build a second nuclear plant in the country in addition to one already planned for the western Grodno Region, President Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday.
“If we have your cooperation, support and suitable conditions, we are ready to build a second nuclear power station in Belarus,” the president told International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Yukiya Amano who is on a visit to Minsk.
Construction of Belarus’ first nuclear plant in the Grodno Region, close to the Lithuanian border, was expected to begin in April. Lukashenko said on Tuesday its construction has “already begun.”
The $9-billion plant will be built by Russia’s Atomstroyexport company, a subsidiary of state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom. The plant will consist of two reactors with a capacity of 1,200 MW each and will boost the entire Belarusian energy system's capacity to 8,000 MW. The power station’s first unit is due to be ready in 2017 and the second in 2018.
Belarus began preparing to build a nuclear plant back in the 1980s, but the project was shelved following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in neighboring Ukraine.
Belarusian opposition and environmental activists have raised concerns over the project, which were further fuelled by the March 2011 accident at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station. Lithuania has demanded the plant be moved away from its border.
Russia says it employs advanced technology to ensure accident-free operations at all the power stations it builds.