Lithuania's new Energy Minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas sees ensuring the safety of the Astravyets nuclear power plant, which Belarus is building just 50 kilometers from Vilnius, as one of his key tasks.
Zones of radioctive termination of the Astravyets nuclear power plant

"As to the Astravyets issue, if it is impossible to stop this project, then compliance with the highest nuclear energy and environmental standards must be ensured. This is our chief aim," Vaiciunas said in an interview with the Delfi.lt news website.

"In the meantime, we have reasonable doubts and we seek to use all available instruments of international influence, including both the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the European Commission," he said.

In the minister's words, Lithuania has concerns about the independence of Belarus' authorities supervising the safety of the Astravyets project.

"One of our greatest concerns is that their regulator should be completely independent and should have a sufficient level of competence to ensure safety. We have a rather long history of (non)cooperation with Belarus. We have always asked for transparency, openness and dialogue. However, it is only recently that meetings have begun," he said.

Rokas Masiulis, the previous energy minister, told BNS earlier this week that Belarus had promised to carry out stress tests at the Astravyets plant, a major diplomatic achievement for Lithuania, but added that it would take time to ensure that the neighboring country guarantees full safety of the facility.

"That takes time. We already have certain support. I am very glad that Brussels has reacted and has sent its representatives to Belarus. There is a considerable progress. Belarus has already committed itself to provide information and conduct stress tests, although the IAEA requirements are not directly binding on them. They opted to perform all those tests, which I consider as a great diplomatic achievement for us," Masiulis said in an interview with BNS.

"If they do not halt the construction, at least there will be a possibility of checking them to ensure a higher quality of the construction," he added.

Lithuania says that Belarus fails to follow safety standards and international environmental requirements in building the plant, but Minsk rejects the criticism as unfounded.

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