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Belarus To Launch New Nuclear Power Plant This Autumn

Officials in Minsk say a nuclear power plant being constructed in western Belarus will be launched during the summer and start producing electricity in the autumn.

Energy Minister Viktar Karankevich announced the timetable for the Belarusian nuclear power plant on April 11 during an interview with the Belarusian TV channel ONT.

"We target July in respect of the physical launch," Karankevich said about the plant in the western region of Hrodno. "Accordingly, the output of first kilowatt hours of electric power -- the energy -- will start in September-October."

The plant is being built in the town of Astravets near the border with Lithuania. It is just 40 kilometers from Lithuania's capital, Vilnius.

In January, Lithuanian Energy Minister Zygimantas Vaiciunas told RFE/RL that the Belarusian plant is "a threat to our national security, public health, and environment."

"The key question is the site selection, which was done politically -- geopolitically," Vaiciunas told RFE/RL.

Plans for the nuclear plant were unveiled by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka in 2008 when Minsk received a $10 billion loan from Moscow for the project.

The general contractor for the Belarusian nuclear power plant building is Atomstroiexport, an affiliate of Russia's state-owned Rosatom.

By RFE/RL

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