Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant – Security Challenge for Entire Europe

European Parliament’s agenda for June 6 was focused on the question of safety and security of Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant. This construction implemented by Russian energy concern “Rosatom” in Ostrovec, Belarus, less than 20 kilometres from the European Union external border, is followed by multiple accusations for failing to conform with international environmental standards, such as set by United Nations Aarhus and Espoo Conventions, as well as to provide response on inquiries submitted by its nearest neighbour Lithuania on the safety and security of the project.

‘The issue is of utmost importance for people all over Lithuania and entire Europe, as the Ostrovec project is rapidly being implemented and the threats it pose are becoming more and more tangible. With this European Parliament’s plenary debate we ask for the issue of unsafe Belarusian NPP to finally appear on the Commission’s agenda. We urge the Commission to finally wake up from ignorance of threat, appearing at the very border of the EU and use all levers available to start impacting Belarus, a non-democratic country, to stop breaching international conventions and international nuclear security practices in building Ostrovec NPP. We need a strong message, political will and dedicated efforts of the Commission in order not to sacrifice the health and security of European citizens in exchange for unclear political gains’, – notes Bronis Ropė, Lithuanian member of the Greens / European Alliance Group at the European Parliament.

Despite multiple violations of international conventions and protests of neighbouring countries and civil society, Belarusian authorities take all opportunities to declare that Ostrovec NPP will be the cheapest and fastest built nuclear power plant. The commissioning of first reactor is expected in 2018, with the second following in 2020.

‘The plan to build two new reactors in Belarus, close to the Lithuanian border poses a great risk to citizens of the EU, but also to the citizens of Belarus that still suffer from the aftermath of the Chernobyl catastrophe 30 years ago. The plans of Belarusian government to build these reactors under immense time pressure and at extremely low costs raises additional concerns. International conventions to include neighbouring states are not respected and there are serious doubts regarding the safety of the project. The EU-Commission has to use all possible avenues to make sure that international conventions will be respected and that Belarus will take part in the EU-stress tests and will accomplish IAEA SEED mission for the site in its full scope in order to ensure that international nuclear safety standards are applied’ – underlines Rebecca Harms, co-president of the Greens / EFA at the European Parliament.

It is noteworthy the so far ambiguous role of the European Commission. EU climate action and energy commissioner Miguel Arias Cañete is known for assuring the conformity of Belarusian NPP to international stress test requirements in his reply to MEP Ropė’s request in December 2015. However in April 2016 the Commission, answering to another similar question, posed by three green MEP’s – Rebecca Harms, Bronis Ropė and Claude Turmes, has indicated that such stress tests are not conducted yet only planned, meanwhile announcing its reluctance apply pressure to Belarus on this issue.

Monday’s plenary debate shall encourage the Commission to take into more serious account the threats posed by the Ostrovec NPP to the health and security of the citizens of the European Union. Close involvement of the EU institutions rather than efforts of single Member State is expected to have tangible results on halting the construction of Belarusian NPP until its safety and security will be ensured in line with the international conventions and corresponding standards.