MINSK, October 19 (RIA Novosti) - Belarus will hold a tender next year for a project to build its first nuclear power plant, at which Russian and Western partners are expected to bid, the prime minister said on Friday.
The Belarusian leadership has said the country needs the plant to ensure national energy security amid rising hydrocarbon prices. Russia doubled its gas price for Belarus at the start of the year, after over a decade of heavily discounted prices. The new plant is expected to provide 15% of the country's power consumption.
"We have proposals from our Western partners and Russia to carry out this project," Sergei Sidorsky said following a session of the Council of Ministers of the Russia-Belarus Union State.
Russia and France have been mentioned as possible participants in the tender.
Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said earlier today in Minsk that Russia had the experience and potential to build the plant for Belarus, and that its proposal would be the most reasonable and meet international security standards.
The plans for a nuclear power plant have been taken warily inside Belarus, which was heavily affected by the devastating Chernobyl accident in neighboring Ukraine in 1986. In April, on the anniversary of the disaster, some 2,500 people took to streets of Minsk to protest against the project.
Sidorsky said the Belarusian government was studying several potential sites for the future plant.
Belarus's energy ministry earlier said the plant would be built in the eastern Mogilyov Region, 100 km (62 miles) from the border with Russia, with the first reactor to be commissioned in 2017 and the second in 2020.