Meeting in Minsk once again demonstrated that Ostrovets NPP project requires international supervision2016-09-14
On 14 September, a two-day Lithuanian-Belarus experts’ meeting, dedicated to discuss the “hot” nuclear safety, environmental and other issues of the Ostrovets NPP, which is being built in the Republic of Belarus, ended.
As the Head of Lithuanian Delegation, Director of Pollution Prevention Department of the Ministry of Environment Mr. Vitalijus Auglys put it, the meeting confirmed the major disagreements of both Parties observed at the meeting of 21-22 June in Vilnius. The approaches towards application of international standards, transboundary environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedures, transparency, openness and good neighbourhood principles, remain different. Positions of Lithuanian and Belarus delegations parted not only on the EIA procedures but also on obvious facts. Belarus refuses to admit that the Ostrovets NPP project is being developed in violation of the UN Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context Convention, even though this fact was stated in the Meeting of the Parties to the Convention in 2014.
Lithuanian delegation raised the issues related the nuclear power plant safety and its impacts on the environment and human health, which are of major concern and importance and especially emphasised the incidents that had recently occurred at the future NPP. The incident of 10 July 2016, when a nuclear reactor vessel was damaged, was especially dangerous. Therefore, the representatives of Lithuania requested to replace the damaged nuclear reactor vessel. Lithuania has also encouraged Belarus to invite international commission to oversee the construction work of the Ostrovets NPP in order to prevent such incidents from happening again in the future. The international commission should include experts from the European Union and Lithuania.
Lithuanian representatives once again requested Belarus to present the scientific and technical information (geological, hydrological and seismological surveys) in writing that was presented in the meeting in Vilnius for further analysis by Lithuanian experts. The information was not included in the EIA documentation and even contradicted the data received earlier. Belarus agreed to provide requested information only if Lithuania confirmed that transboundary EIA procedure with Belarus was over. Lithuania maintains its position that the EIA process for the Ostrovets NPP project remains open, as Lithuania’s questions about the NPP safety have not been answered, the public hearings for Lithuanian public have not been organised, etc.
In the meeting in Minsk, the Lithuanian delegation again requested Belarus, as a matter of urgency, to accomplish the Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Site and External Events Design (SEED) mission and to perform comprehensive risk and safety assessments (stress-tests) with the participation of experts from the European Union and Lithuania. Belarus promised to perform the mentioned international exercises by the end of this year; however, did not specify the dates and scope of the missions. Lithuanian delegation reiterated the position expressed at the meeting in Vilnius that Belarus should halt the construction work until the finalisation of the stress tests and SEED mission.
Lithuanian experts once again urged Belarus to assess the impact of a heavy aircraft crash on the Ostrovets NPP, taking into account the NPP design assessment and its modifications carried out in Finland. The Finnish nuclear safety regulator after assessing the NPP design project, which is also chosen by Belarus, concluded that the nuclear reactor containment building cannot resist a heavy aircraft crash and requested the Russian Atomic Energy corporation “Rosatom” to reinforce the reactor’s containment. “Rosatom” agreed to implement these requirements in Finland.
Lithuania once again demanded that Belarus should re-estimate the population density in the territories around the Ostrovets NPP in accordance with the international standards for emergency preparedness, especially taking into account that Vilnius is the largest and the most densely populated city situated only 40 km from the Ostrovets NPP. Population density factor used for site selection for the construction of the NPP and assessment of radiological impact on the public took into account only population density in Belarus. Therefore, it is necessary to re-estimate population density and reassess possible radiological impact on Lithuanian public in the case of accident at Belarus NPP, taking into account population in the territory of Lithuania within the range of 100 km from Belarus NPP, which includes the most densely populated region, including the capital and the biggest city Vilnius.
In the meeting, the Lithuanian experts presented a study on the possible impact on the Neris River that will be used for the cooling purposes for the Ostrovets NPP as well as on the underground potable water in the event of a severe accident. Lithuanian delegation received no reliable evidence that the river basin and underground potable water would not be contaminated in case of an accident.