Belarus has begun loading fuel into the first of two reactors at its new Russian-built Astravets nuclear power plant, which it says it expects to become operational later this year.
Built by Russian state firm Rosatom and financed by Moscow with a $10 billion loan, the project is opposed by neighboring EU member Lithuania, whose capital, Vilnius, is just 50 kilometers away.
Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are moving to fully decoupling from their Soviet-era common power system by 2025.
Lithuania has already banned all electricity imports from the Astravets plant, citing concerns about safety and national security.
Belarus has rejected suggestions that the plant poses a risk and has insisted it meets all safety standards.
Then Energy Ministry in Minsk said it plans to add the first 1.2 gigawatt water-water energetic reactor (VVER) reactor to the country's power system in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Construction of the second reactor is scheduled for completion in 2022 and will double the plant's capacity to 2.4 gigawatts.
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