13:48 Oct. 19, 2016
Thirty years after Chernobyl catastrophe, construction of new nuclear station on border with Lithuania stirs debate
Thirty years after an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power station devastated the countryside on the southern border of Belarus, leaving behind lasting consequences for millions of people, the construction of a new nuclear station is stirring discord between government officials, opposition politicians, the local populace and foreign diplomats.
The death of a 43-year-old Russian contractor last month, after an explosion at the Belarusian nuclear power plant (BelNPP) construction site near Astravets in northern Belarus on its border with Lithuania, is only the latest in a string of little-publicised incidents that has raised concerns at home and abroad about the how the station is being constructed.
On July 10 of this year, the 330-tonne reactor casing dropped from a height of between two and four metres in an incident that only came to the public's attention two weeks later when a member of the Belarus United Civil Party, Mikalai Ulasevich, leaked the news to the local press.
The Ministry of Energy eventually released a statement acknowledging the incident, and Rosatom - the Russian state nuclear corporation and the primary contractor for the project, said that tests had revealed the dropped casing to be safe.
However, with the memory of Chernobyl looming large, both the energy ministry and Rosatom, which agreed to replace the casing to "mitigate rumours and panic among the population" have so far failed to reassure all Belarusians of the station's safety.