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Belarusian Nuclear Plant Stops Electricity Output Three Days After Opening Ceremony


Belarus only began operating the Astravets nuclear power plant last week. (file photo)

MINSK -- Belarus's only nuclear plant, near the Lithuanian border, has suspended electricity production just three days after authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka officially opened it, boasting that his country "will become a nuclear power."

An official from the nuclear plant said on November 10 that the facility's output had been stopped after the Energy Ministry said a day earlier that unspecified equipment must be replaced before any resumption of electricity production.

The Tut.by online outlet quoted a source close to energy officials as saying that operations at the nuclear plant were suspended after several voltage transformers exploded.

According to the source, the situation is under control, there were no casualties, and no radiation abnormalities were registered at the plant.

On November 7, when opening the nuclear plant near the western city of Astravets, Lukashenka called the facility "a new step into the future, toward ensuring the energy security of the state."

Built by Russian state-owned firm Rosatom and financed by Moscow with a $10 billion loan, the construction of the power plant in the Hrodna region was opposed by Lithuania, whose capital, Vilnius, is just 50 kilometers away.

Astravets draws water for its cooling reactors from the Nevis River, which is also a source of drinking water in Lithuania.

Belarus began operating the plant last week, prompting Lithuania to halt electricity imports from its neighbor.

The plant's construction has also been divisive among Belarusians, who suffered greatly as a result of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Belarus saw a quarter of its territory contaminated in the world's worst civilian nuclear accident.

With reporting by Interfax and tut.by
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