Espoo Convention meeting in Minsk to decide on international expert body for Belarus' N-plant

The Astravyets nuclear power plant - under construction

Lithuania will try to prove the need for an international expert body for the Astravyets nuclear power plant under the construction in Belarus at a high-level meeting of the parties to the Espoo Convention that is starting in Minsk on Monday.

The parties to the Espoo Convention are expected to sign on Friday a decision calling for setting up an international expert body to review the compliance of the construction of the Astravyets with the convention. The document should also point out that Belarus has not provided answers to key questions, such as the criteria for the selection of the nuclear power plant site.

"The Implementation Committee's decision will cover many issues, including Astravyets," Lithuanian Environment Minister Kestutis Navickas told BNS.

"The Espoo Implementation Committee has raised five questions regarding the Astravyets facility and said that an expert body needs to be created, either a bilateral one by Lithuania and Belarus or a international one to which a foreign expert is selected by Lithuania, Belarus and Espoo each. The latter option is the most acceptable to us," he said.

A meeting of the parties to the Espoo Convention held in Geneva in 2014 confirmed that Belarus had violated four articles of the convention in the development of the Astravyets project.

In examining the matter, the Implementation Committee formulated five questions, including criteria for the site selection, the plant's ability to withstand the impact of a heavy aircraft crash, the plant's potential impact on drinking water and the Neris River waters, the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste, and data used to measure the density of the population that could be affected in an accident.

Russia's state corporation Rosatom is building the nuclear power plant in Astravyets, some 50 kilometers from Vilnius. The Lithuanian government maintains that the project falls short of safety and environmental standards, but Minsk rejects the criticism as unfounded.

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