A mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will head to Belarus in February to evaluate the preparedness of the country’s national infrastructure for a nuclear power station under construction in the town of Astravets near the Lithuanian border.
The Belarusian Energy Ministry said on January 15 that the mission will start its work on February 24.
Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka signed off on the nuclear power plant back in 2008, partly to lessen the country’' dependence on Russia to meet its energy needs.
The nuclear power plant, however, is being built by Russian companies contracted by Rosatom and Moscow is jointly financing the project, which has had cost estimates ranging from $5 billion to $22 billion.
The construction site has witnessed a series of mishaps, including the dropping of a 330-ton nuclear-reactor casing in July 2016. It was only more than two weeks after the incident that the Belarusian Energy Ministry confirmed there had been an "emergency situation" at the construction site.
The planned site of the Astravets plant has been a concern for Lithuania ever since the project was announced in 2008. The Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, is less than 50 kilometers away, meaning that Minsk is at odds with IAEA recommendations made after the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan that plants should not be built within 100 kilometers of major population centers.
Belarus expects to have the two 1.2 gigawatt VVER 1200 reactors online in 2020, according to the Astravets website.