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Lithuanian hysteria about nuclear power plant in Belarus caused resentment on the EU

Lithuanian hysteria about nuclear power plant in Belarus caused resentment on the EU

26.08.2016
Tags: Lithuania, the Baltic States, Belarus, NPP construction, nuclear power, Analytics, Energy

On Friday, Lithuania's Minister of Energy stated about the possible legal action to Minsk because of the construction of nuclear power plants "saving the cost of security." This is another step in Vilnius in an aggressive campaign to counter this project are of fundamental importance for Russia and Belarus. But what is the reason of such a strange policy of Lithuania?

A recent statement by President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite that Ostrovets NPP under construction in Belarus is the country for its "existential security issue" is not the first attempt to discredit the project of Vilnius. Lithuanian escapade directly affect the interests of the Russian industry. Finish building the nuclear power plant in Belarus, the structures of the state corporation "Rosatom" will have in terms of increasing pressure, which has a lot of supporters not only in Lithuania, but also in Belarus itself.

Asymmetrical exchange arguments

Dali Grybauskaite, in which the Lithuanian president promised to bring information about the threats of the Ostrovets (Belarusian) nuclear power plant to US Vice President Joe Biden, was preceded by a series of ambiguous events. In early May, the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs handed to the Ambassador of Belarus an official note in connection with the "possible incident" at the Ostrovets nuclear power plant: allegedly a few weeks before, a collapse of concrete structures occurred on the site between the two reactors under construction, as reported by the satellite channel "Belsat", broadcasting from Poland in the Belarusian language. In response to this note, the Ministry of Energy of Belarus reported that 8 April, when laying concrete one of the floors of household and utility rooms, a partial damage to supporting formwork structures actually occurred. However, the ministry emphasized, this was a defect in the preparatory work, its consequences were eliminated, and there were no "damages and destruction of the constructs taken by the customer at the facilities of the Belarusian NPP during the entire construction period".

In the middle of the month a new report appeared on the incident at the construction of the nuclear power plant. One of the first to spread this information was the activist of the Belarusian United Civil Party Mykola Ulasevich, who lives in the town of Ostrovets. He wrote on his Facebook page that the installation ceremony for the reactor planned for 11 July did not take place due to the fact that "330-ton unit failed for some unknown reasons and fell down from the height of 2 to 4 meters". At the same time, a comment was received from the Belarusian energy ministry, which was no longer as categorical as it was in May. The ministry's message acknowledges that a "contingency situation" occurred on the site where the reactor vessel was stored while carrying out rigging to move it horizontally.

A few days later, an official comment was made by the state corporation Rosatom, whose structure includes Atomstroyexport. As explained by the first deputy director of Rosatom Alexander Lokshin, on the night of 9 on 10 July, the reactor body was planned to be moved about a distance of about 10 meters, without changing its horizontal position, but in the process subcontractor deviations from the instruction were made, lifting, the reactor vessel slipped along the lines and hung diagonally, touching the ground. However, according to Lokshin, describing the situation with the formulations "impact on the ground" or "fall" is incorrect, since "the speed of the hull does not exceed the speed of the pedestrian" and no significant impact was taken by the building.

A separate part of the commentary was devoted to further actions. The first deputy head of Rosatom said that if the customer decides not to use the ill-fated corps, then the reactor building intended for the second unit will be installed at the first power unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant - its production is now being completed at the Atommash plant in Volgodonsk. As the main argument in favor of such a decision, Lokshin cited "public acceptability in the construction of the country's first nuclear power plant", stressing that "there are no technical obstacles to the use of the hull." "There was no event that caused any damage. The maximum, which can be talked about - about the factory paint rubbed on the body due to the friction of metal lines, "the report said.

However, by the time this comment was submitted to the public, a completely different version of events was already formulated and distributed, and the Lithuanian side did it. All the same Grybauskaite - a longtime opponent of the construction of the Belarusian NPP - once again demanded from neighbors to ensure international standards for the safety of the plant, threatening otherwise to connect the world community to prevent its exploitation. "The repeated one-on-one accidents show that our concerns were justified," the Lithuanian president said. Two days later, the country's Foreign Ministry again presented Belarus with a note on the nuclear power plant - the third since the beginning of the year.

The origins of Lithuanian fears are that the nuclear power plant under construction is located only half a hundred kilometers from Vilnius. At the same time, the reaction of the Lithuanian authorities was clearly sustained in the logic of information warfare, one of the main methods of which is to aggravate the situation by artificially maintaining interest in the topic and asymmetric responses to enemy arguments. The very next day after the appearance of the comment of Rosatom Grybauskaite, presenting his credentials to the new ambassador of Lithuania in Belarus Andrius Pulokas, stated about the need to require admission to the construction of nuclear power some international experts. This requirement sounded at least strange, because the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has the ability to track the progress of construction and does it regularly - the next mission of this organization will visit Belarus in early October.

Along with the performance Grybauskaite, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius questioned the version of events as presented by the Russian state corporation, and the Belarusian anti-nuclear campaign, uniting movement "Scientists for nuclear-free Belarus," local party "green" and social movement "Eco House", sent an open letter to the the country's leadership, Director General of the IAEA and a number of organizations demanding the immediate stop construction.

The next step of the opponents of the nuclear power plant was a special conference at the Academy of Sciences of Lithuania, scheduled for 23 August - the anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, one of the results of which was the accession of the Baltic states to the USSR. It was at this conference that Grybauskaite made a statement that the nuclear power plant in Belarus is an "existential security issue". "Ostrovets is one of the tools that can be used in an unconventional way against the Baltic countries," the Lithuanian president added, clearly drawing parallels with the events of 1939. And former Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius proposed to introduce into the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry's doctrine the position that Lithuania is unequivocally against the Ostrovets nuclear power plant under any position of third parties.

Revival "Atommash"

Despite the continuous international pressure, the Belarusian authorities are not ready to abandon the project because it will significantly optimize the energy balance of Belarus. In particular, recently the Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Semashko said that the NPP commissioning will allow to replace about 5 billion cubic meters of gas, or about a quarter of the amount that is consumed in the country in the year (in 2015 year Belarus "burned» 19,1 billion cubic meters ).

If you look at this story from the Russian side, then the construction of the nuclear power plant that entered the final stage is one of the greatest successes of the domestic nuclear industry in the international arena for the entire post-Soviet period. In this case it is unprincipled that the station is located in the territory of the post-Soviet space closest to Russia, since the fate of the project was not easy. Plans to build a nuclear power plant in Belarus that could cover energy shortages appeared in the early nineties, but only by the end of the last decade the project began to acquire real features. And initially, not only Russia, but also France, China and even the United States claimed the right to build the station. However, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko made a choice in favor of Russia, and in 2011 the construction began.

A key supplier of equipment for the Belarusian nuclear power plant was the Atommash plant, built in the 1970-ies in the Rostov region as a city-forming enterprise of the new city of Volgodonsk. Thanks to this giant plant, the population of Volgodonsk only quadrupled in a few years, but after the Chernobyl accident the enterprise's development slowed down, and with the collapse of the USSR it was in an extremely difficult situation. Complete collapse was avoided - Atmash produced equipment for gas turbine CHP plants and oil refineries, but the full-fledged new life of the enterprise began only in 2012 with the entry into the structure of the state corporation Rosatom. This allowed the company to deploy a program of technical re-equipment (as of the end of last year, about 3 billion rubles was invested in modernization) and significantly increase its staff.

Already in 2013, Atommash receives an order for the manufacture of a WWER-1200 type reactor for the power unit of the Belarusian NPP - the first for 30 years, the first for export and at the same time the most powerful in the CIS (1200 MW). Shipment to the customer of the reactor, the work on which was completed in October last year, was perhaps the main event in the post-Soviet history of the plant. Following Byelorussia, Atommash plans to produce equipment for the nuclear industry of other countries - India (Kudankulam NPP), China, Turkey (Akkuyu NPP), Finland and others. The company plans to develop the production of components for a new VVER-TOI reactor facility with the capacity of 1300 MW and a period of operation of 100 years instead of the current 60 years.

In this context, the aggravation of the situation around the Belarusian nuclear power plant seems to directly affect the interests of Atommash - too much is done for the first time in this project. Therefore, the management of Rosatom will make every effort to remove any suspicions from the Volgodonsk plant, as evidenced by some wording in the commentary on the July incident at the nuclear power plant. The blame for what happened was placed on the subcontract organization, both in the material and intangible parts. "In the information field there were doubts about the expediency of using this hull, which is at least a reputational damage. This is the fault of these people and the whole subcontract organization, "- said Lokshin.

"Common EU problem"

Let's return, however, to Lithuania, to answer the question - is it just "security issues" that explains such aggressive resistance to the project. The former speaker of the Sejm and the head of the Supreme Council of Lithuania during her separation from the USSR Vytautas Landsbergis at the already mentioned conference in the Academy of Sciences was not shy in expressions. "This is atomic terrorism and a sense of revenge ... If a bomb needs to be installed over Vilnius, then the head orders to go to the end. Profitable or not, it does not matter. It will be done as the great head wants, and the guilty one will be a small squire. Let's help this "squire" by raising the issue of his direct responsibility, urging him to understand this and change the construction site, "he said, clearly hinting at Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko and insisting that the construction near the Lithuanian borders is exclusively for Lithuania. But at the same time the professor made a reservation: "This is a direct threat and damage - already now, firstly, because of the restriction of economic development."

Recall that, having separated from the USSR, Lithuania became 21-th country in the world that uses nuclear energy to generate electricity. The Ignalina nuclear power plant, inherited from the Union, provided Lithuania's needs for 80% and an important status in providing energy for the entire region, but was closed at the EU's request as not meeting the European security criteria. In principle, this in itself was not a problem - it was possible to buy cheap electricity from the Russian Federation, but by the same token, Lithuania fell into the "energy dependence on Russia," and in the Baltics it sounds like a curse. To prevent such a "dependence" on Vilnius, Washington, and Vilnius, from other EU countries, strictly demands, for example, the construction of the Northern Streams (both first and second). To solve this largely contrived problem was possible with the help of electric power links with Poland and Sweden, which cost a lot - more than 600 million euros.

At the same time far away from the Ignalina NPP - Visaginas - began to build a new station - a modern, meeting all requirements of the EU and the Japanese Hitachi reactor (such as, incidentally, stood on the infamous "Fukushima-1»). At the same time the construction of nuclear power plant in Belarus started after only two years after the closure of Ignalina and it will be put into operation for ten years before the station in Visaginas - in 2018-m. In Lithuania's energy strategy that does not fit.

First, all goes to the fact that to buy from Belarus energy will be extremely beneficial not only for Lithuania, but also throughout the region (Lukashenka has stated that the NPP in Ostrovets is the cheapest in the world), then there will be again the infamous "energy dependence on Russia "(even though nuclear power is in Belarus, the project, the Russian). Secondly, in the Visaginas nuclear power plant will work only if the energy market already anyway is busy Belarusian-Russian competitors.

Therefore, in Vilnius, resentment against the EU, which has set the republic up, has provided the competitors in the energy market with a multi-year advantage. And if the project of the nuclear power plant in Belarus does not succeed in torpedoing, it is necessary to defend it somehow - and not in the atomic sense, but in the economic sense. The parliament has already registered a bill that directly prohibits the Cabinet from not only buying energy from Belarus and providing the Lithuanian infrastructure for its resale to third countries, but even negotiating on this account. The next step is to persuade neighbors to do the same by pressing them through Brussels. As stated by Dalia Grybauskaite during a recent meeting with the vice-president of the European Commission on Energy Union Maros Shefovich: "Ostrovets nuclear power plant should become a common EU problem".

Nikolay Protsenko, Stanislav Borzyak
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