Initial construction work at Belarus NPP to begin in Aug-Sep 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Initial construction work at the Belarus nuclear power plant will begin in August or September 2011, First Vice Prime Minister Vladimir Smeashko said on Monday, February 14.

"We are beginning to build a nuclear power plant this year. The preparatory period is drawing to an end, the document has been signed, according to which initial construction work will begin from the end of August or the beginning of September," he said.

He noted with satisfaction "progress at the talks with Russia on a loan for the construction of the first Belarusian nuclear power plant".

The Russian Finance Ministry will consider the possibility of issuing a loan for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus, Atomstroyexport First Vice President Alexander Dybov said last week.

In his opinion, the cost of two units for the Belarusian NPP will exceed eight billion U.S. dollars. Ideally, Belarus would like to get a loan covering the full cost. "But the terms of the agreement have not been coordinated yet, and I do not want to anticipate things," the official said.

Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko said that the inter-governmental agreement with Belarus on cooperation in the construction of the nuclear power plant would be signed before the end of the first quarter of this year.

"We have prepared the agreement on the construction of the nuclear power plant in Belarus. The Russian side suggested that the agreement on energy cooperation be included in it. We are working on these documents now," Belarusian Deputy Energy Minister Mikhail Mikhadyuk said.

Deputy Director-General of Russia's state-owned corporation Rosatom Nikolai Spasski confirmed that the agreement on the construction of the nuclear power plant was ready but the sides "have serious questions that need to be discussed."

"This is not a matter of some distant future. This is a real construction project in the very centre of our space. We are working in a friendly and constructive key, and all the questions that arise will be solved promptly," he said.

Belarus and Russia disagreed over the creation of a joint venture that should sell the electricity to be generated by the future nuclear power plant. After long disputes, Belarus suggested a corrected version, under which the joint venture will sell electricity generated by the whole energy system in Belarus.

Russia and Belarus hope to finish the first stage of the plant in 2017.

The two first units of the future Belarusian nuclear power plant are expected to be commissioned before 2020, Belarusian Deputy Energy Minister Yuri Rymashevsky said earlier.

"In the next five years and in the period up to 2020, Belarus plans to launch new electricity- generating facilities, including those in the atomic energy sector," he said.

Belarus plans to build its first nuclear power plant with the generating capacity of 2.4 megawatts. The NPP will be designed by Russia. Initially it was planned that the first power unit would be commissioned in 2016, and the second one in 2018.

The nuclear power plant will be located in the Ostrovetsky district of the Grodno region.

Russia's Atomstroiexport company will be the project's general contractor.

Belarus had asked the Russian government to provide a 9-billion-U.S. dollar loan for the construction of two units of the Belarusian first nuclear power plant and for the creation and development of necessary infrastructure.

According to Belarusian estimates, the commissioning of the nuclear power plant will make it possible to reduce the cost of electricity in the country by 20 percent.

First Vice Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko said, "It has yet to be seen who needs the nuclear power plant more. To us it means diversification of energy supplies; to Russia, it means contracts for its machine-building industry."

He said the cost of project was estimated at six billion U.S. dollars and would involve from several dozen to several hundred enterprises.

Semashko expressed confidence that Russia would keep its promise and give Belarus a loan for building the nuclear power plant under the Russian project.

Russia reiterated earlier its readiness to issue such a loan for the construction of the first nuclear power plant in Belarus.

"Russia is ready to issue a loan for the construction of a nuclear power plant, i.e. power units and support infrastructure," Russian ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov said.

According to the Russian diplomat, Russia and Belarus are working to lay the groundwork for the deal. The two countries have already singed a cooperation agreement on the peaceful sue of atomic energy and are currently negotiating the sale of electricity generated by the future nuclear plant.

"The two countries' energy ministries are debating what should be done with the future energy markets in order not to throw sand in each other's wheels," Surikov noted.

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