Prime Minister’s Statement on Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant

Date

2019 10 01

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‘On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, I wish to assure everyone that the Government has consistently followed and will continue to follow the Programme of the Seventeenth Government of the Republic of Lithuania, approved by the Seimas in December of 2016, also the provisions of the Law of the Republic of Lithuania Recognising the Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant under Construction in Belarus as Unsafe and Endangering the National Security, Environment and the Public Health of the Republic of Lithuania, and the provisions of the National Security Strategy and its chapter on the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant in particular, and that it has resorted to all possible means to implement them.

The Programme of the Seventeenth Government seeks to prevent the unsafe Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant from becoming operational and, if it is launched anyway, to prevent its electricity from entering the domestic market. The Programme also calls for an early synchronisation of Lithuania’s power grid with the continental European network (hereinafter ‘the CEN’) and for the separation of the infrastructure from the Eastern market and the BRELL system.
It is notable that, over the recent years, political and technical solutions have been found between Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Lithuania regarding the synchronisation of Baltic power grids with the CEN, along with the solutions for the construction of an interconnector between Lithuania and Poland (Harmony Link), furthermore, the support of the European Union Member States and of the European Commission has been secured, along with the EU funding from the current and future multiannual financial framework for the completion of the project by 2025.

It should be recalled that the discussion on the synchronisation of the power grid of Lithuania and of other Baltic States with the European network started in Lithuania 20 years ago. However, only this Government has been able to take concrete steps to implement this national security project.

It was on the recommendation of this Government that the Seimas adopted the Law of the Republic of Lithuania Recognising the Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant under Construction in Belarus as Unsafe and Endangering the National Security, Environment and the Public Health of the Republic of Lithuania. This Law stipulates that electricity from third countries with unsafe nuclear power plants will be prevented from entry to Lithuania’s electricity market.

On the visit to Lithuania on 16 September 2019, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Marowiecki confirmed that Poland had no intentions to purchase electricity generated at the Astravyets Nuclear Power Plant (hereinafter ‘the NPP’). The Government of the Republic of Lithuania has no information either as to Germany’s potential interest in purchasing electricity generated in Belarus for its own use.

It is notable that significant results have been achieved in terms of attention from the international community and clear support for Lithuania’s position. In July 2018, the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group endorsed a peer review report on Astravyets NPP’s risk and safety assessment (stress tests), which clearly noted that the Astravyets NPP was not safe: the report identified serious flaws in the project and offered recommendations, particularly in the areas of seismic safety assessment, improvement of safety functions and management of severe accidents. The Government continues to adhere to the view that the recommendations must be implemented before the Astravyets NPP becomes operational.

At the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council held on 24 September 2019 in Brussels, Lithuania additionally called on further involvement of the European Commission and Member States in monitoring the implementation of the recommendations for the Astravyets Nuclear Safety outlined in the peer review report and in monitoring the whole process.

As part of the ongoing efforts of this Government, it was officially stated during the meeting of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention) held in Geneva in February 2019 that Belarus had infringed three articles of the Espoo Convention as a result of an inappropriate environmental impact assessment, inappropriate assessment of site alternatives, inappropriate consultations with impact-bound countries and the inappropriate final decision. In February 2019, as a follow up to all the efforts at national level, the Government approved an action plan regarding the unsafe Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant. At international level, considering the diplomatic efforts made, the next meeting of the Parties to the Espoo Convention that brings together 45 members, will be held in Lithuania at the end of 2020.

In March 2019, I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus calling on Belarus to deal with the issue of the Nuclear Power Plant under construction in the Republic of Belarus, which threatens the national security, the environment and public health of the Republic of Lithuania. Unfortunately, the Belarusian side confirmed in its response that the project was being finalized, that there were no plans to halt it and that no alternatives were being considered.

The above information shows that it is only in recent years that the Seimas and the Government have taken decisive steps to secure the support of the EU and other countries in halting the project of the unsafe Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant, which has been planned since 2010 and constructed since 2013. Had such diplomatic and practical measures been taken during the initial phase of the project, the halting of the project or the transformation of the NPP into a safe facility with no threat to Lithuanian national security, environment and health would have had greater chances. Unfortunately, the opportunity was missed.

I appreciate your proposals regarding the future of EU-Belarus relations. Pursuant to the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, the President of the Republic deals with key foreign policy issues and, together with the Government, conducts foreign policy, therefore Lithuania’s position vis-à-vis Belarus is and will be coordinated and formulated accordingly.

The Government is responsible for providing proper information and civil protection to the population. In this context, nuclear emergency response and resilience-building plans and measures are being developed. This week, from 1 to 4 October, the Fire and Rescue Department under the Ministry of the Interior is holding an exercise, where 24 public authorities will be preparing for a nuclear or radiological emergency at the Astravyets NPP.

On 9 September 2019, a letter was submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus calling on Belarus to sign an agreement with Lithuania on early notification of a nuclear accident prior to the entry of nuclear fuel into the territory of Belarus. Such an agreement would enable us to promptly find out about potential accidents at the Belarusian NPP.

On behalf of the Government, I would like to assure you that Lithuania’s position on the threat posed by the Astravyets NPP in Belarus has not changed. To me, as the head of the Government, the security of the Lithuanian people remains of paramount importance. Therefore, we have no reasons whatsoever to change our position on the Astravyets NPP’, reads Prime Minister’s Statement.