Belarus First Nuclear Plant: High Costs and Low Benefits
As Japan is dealing with radiation leaks and Germany is shuting down its nuclear plants, Belarus committed to build its own nuclear plant. Belarus has a special and tragic relationship with nuclear power. In 1986 most of the fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear plant landed in Belarus. The country is still recovering from the aftermath of that disaster.
For years the Belarus authorities were toying with the idea of having its own nuclear plant station. Belarus is literally
Earlier this month Belarus signed a number of agreements to build its first nuclear plant. However, it appears that in reality the nuclear plant will make Belarus even more dependent upon Russia. Prior to the elections Belarus was consulting French, Russian and US specialists on the construction of the plant. Following the violent post-election crackdown, the isolated Minsk has no choice but to use Russian contractors. Russia will not only build the station, but it will also lend money to Belarus for this purpose. Moreover, the nuclear fuel is likely to be supplied also by Russia and the nuclear waste will also need to be utilized in Russia. Instead of becoming more independent, Belarus will become financially, technologically and politically more dependent upon Russia.
The International Atomic Energy Agency recently corrected its forecasts on the use of nuclear power in the world. The demand for this sort of energy will be lower than previously thought because of safety concerns. The safety concern in Belarus is even greater than in Japan or Germany because transparency and monitoring mechanisms are weak or absent. In the absence of independent parliament, juridically and strong civil society, various abuses are likely to arise in the course of construction and maintenance of the plant. The price of such misconduct can be catastrophic.
The long-term economic efficiency of building nuclear power plants is also
It is no wonder that Lithuania, which is just across the border from the proposed nuclear plant (see the map above) is very worried. If the construction plans go ahead, the plant will be just 50 kilometers away from Lithuanian capital Vilnius. Both Belarus and Russian authorities give assurances that the plant will be very safe. However, the memories of post-Chernobyl