Facts about the Astravyets NPP

Why should the Astravyets NPP project be discontinued? 

  • The Astravyets NPP is unsafe and poses a threat to the environment, public health, and Lithuania’s national security.  

  • The site for the NPP was selected in an impermissible location only 40 km away from Vilnius.  

  • The NPP is being constructed in violation of the international requirements for environmental protection, nuclear safety, and stress tests* of nuclear power plants. 

Why is the Astravyets NPP unsafe?

  • The site of the Astravyets NPP is in an impermissible location, which is dangerous due to possible earthquakes 

The site of the NPP is situated in the area of an enhanced seismic risk, with the total of 45 past earthquakes of different magnitudes registered in the region. Belarusian scientists have noted that according to geological parameters, the site in Astravyets had been recognised as unsuitable for the construction of the NPP. Also, in view of the scale of the Fukushima disaster, a new safety standard has been adopted recommending against the construction of nuclear power plants closer than 100 km to cities. The Astravyets NPP, nevertheless, is being constructed only 40 km away from Vilnius.

  • Serious nuclear safety deficiencies have not been remedied so far 

The EU Peer Review Report of the Belarus Stress Tests published in July 2018 reveals serious safety deficiencies in the Astravyets NPP, including serious deficiencies in the management of severe accidents and violations of safety requirements, and requests to remedy the deficiencies. Although Belarus plans to launch the first reactor this year, the nuclear safety problems identified by international experts have not been solved yet.

  • Risk of contamination of drinking water in Lithuania 

Belarus plans to use water from the Neris River for cooling the NPP. Since the Neris Basin covers 72 percent of Lithuania’s territory, a nuclear accident could pollute as much as 90 percent of Lithuania’s drinking water. Partial permanent contamination with radionuclides would cause permanent damage to Lithuania.

  • Additional economic costs to Lithuania 

Following the launch of the Astravyets NPP, the Lithuanian authorities will have to draw up an emergency preparedness plan. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown what happens to countries when a crisis hits without preparation or adequate preparation. Technical and institutional preparedness, as well as the acquisition of safety equipment, will require considerable funds from the Lithuanian budget.  

  • Poor occupational safety culture

The Astravyets NPP has already experienced a number of incidents, three of them resulting in human death.  The most serious incident occurred on 10 July 2016, when a 330-ton reactor vessel fell from a height of 4 metres. These occurrences uncover systemic problems, namely, poor occupational safety culture, inadequate control of work quality, and non-compliance with the instructions.

  • The Astravyets NPP is susceptible to external threats 

An aircraft accident, especially intentional terrorist one, could cause the MOST SERIOUS nuclear disaster. Therefore, according to the international recommendations, the structure of all new nuclear power plants must be able to withstand the impact of a heavy aircraft crash. Belarus, nevertheless, has refused to meet this requirement.

  • Higher risk of provocations against Lithuania 

To allegedly ensure the physical protection of the Astravyets NPP, Belarus has established a special military unit No 7434, deployed only 13 kilometres away from the Lithuanian border. The military personnel receive training not only in Belarus but also in Russia and Kazakhstan. In 2016, an anti-aircraft defence base was set up in Astravyets to counter the alleged threats to the Astravyets NPP. As a rule, the physical protection of nuclear power plants is the responsibility of private security companies rather than national armed forces. 

  • The Astravyets NPP is being constructed in violation of the international requirements for environmental protection, nuclear safety, and stress tests* of nuclear power plants

    • Although as early as in 2013, the International Atomic Energy Agency adopted a recommendation against the construction of nuclear power plants closer than 100 km to large cities, the Astravyets NPP is only less than 50 km away from Vilnius.

    • In violation of the Espoo Convention, the site in Astravyets was selected for the construction of a nuclear power plant without any environmental impact assessment. It is important to note that the transboundary environmental impact assessment has not yet been carried out in cooperation with Lithuania and therefore, according to the provisions of the Espoo Convention, the construction of the Astravyets NPP is illegal. 

    • The selection of the Astravyets site was not agreed with Lithuania; therefore, Belarus violated the Convention on Nuclear Safety, too.         

    • The Meeting of the Parties to the Espoo Convention confirmed that in developing the Astravyets NPP project, Belarus had violated four articles of the Convention by not providing answers to the questions raised by Lithuania.