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Construction of #Belarus nuclear power plant: Security and public acceptance 'top priority'

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Journalists of Belarusian and foreign media visited the first Belarusian nuclear power plant which is being constructed near the town of Ostrovets (Grodno oblast). The event was held in the framework of the XXII Belarusian Energy and Ecology forum, which took place in Minsk from 10-13 October.

During the visit, the journalists got acquainted with the progress of construction works, visited the Information and Educational Training centers of the NPP as well as its construction site.

At the moment the construction of the first power unit of the Belarusian NPP is at the stage of completion of the general construction works. On the 1st of April 2017 the reactor vessel of the first unit was installed at its regular place, on the 7th of September 2017 the welding of the main circulation pipeline was completed. At present electrical and thermal-and-mechanical works are being actively conducted at the unit. The works on assembling metal structures of the inner protective shell are under completion: the tiers of the dome have been installed; preparatory works on reinforcement and concreting of the inner protective shell have started.

"The Belarusian NPP units have been designed and are being constructed in accordance with the requirements and recommendations of the IAEA and the European Union. The project is implemented with the consideration of the "post-Fukushima" requirements. Construction and installation works are being carried out on 123 out of the 130 objects and facilities of the first and second power units of the Belarusian nuclear power plant. At the end of 2017 it is planned to proceed flushing technological systems to an unsealed reactor which is the key step for the future commissioning of the unit. The start-up of the first unit of Belarusian NPP is scheduled for 2019", — highlighted Vitaly Medyakov, vice president for the Belarusian NPP project at ASE Group.

The main purpose of the NPP construction in Belarus is to enhance its energy security, reduce the cost of electricity and to diversify fuels used for its production. The commissioning of the NPP will help to avoid emissions of approximately 7-10 million tons of carbon dioxide a year. In addition, the construction of the station is an impetus for socio-economic development of both the region and the country as a whole.

“Ensuring reliability and safety of the Republic’s first nuclear power plant is the top priority for us. We closely cooperate in the implementation of this project with the IAEA, the World Association of Nuclear Operators and other international organizations. This year, expert missions and round tables have become a significant direction of this work – in particular, missions aimed at reviewing radioactive waste and spent fuel management strategies, personnel training and professional development, the mission aimed at reviewing designs of NPP sites with the consideration of external events (SEED mission). Within the framework of the IAEA technical cooperation for 2018-2019, the project "Strengthening the capacity of the operating organization to ensure reliable and safe operation of nuclear power plants" was developed”, said Director of the Nuclear Energy Department of the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Belarus Vasily Polyukhovich.

In 2016, stress tests were carried out at the Belarusian NPP in accordance with the European methodology and with regard to recommendations and standards of the European Commission and ENSREG (the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group). These standards were adopted after the Fukushima accident and were developed to verify and confirm that the NPP will not present danger even in the event of key systems failure, loss of NPP power supply or in case of simultaneous flooding, natural disaster or any other external impact.

“In the near future, namely this year in October, the national report with the results of the conducted stress tests at the Belarusian NPP will be submitted to the European Commission for its mutual consideration with the experts from the European countries such as representatives of regulatory bodies in the field of nuclear and radiation safety”, commented Head of Communications and Public Information Department of Gosatomnadzor Oleg Sobolev.

Belarus

Belarus opposition leader says national strike to begin

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Belarus opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (pictured) said on Sunday (25 October) a national strike would begin on Monday (26 October) after President Alexander Lukashenko’s government responded with force to protests against him earlier that day, writes Polina Ivanova.

Tsikhanouskaya had previously set a 'People’s Ultimatum' for Lukashenko to resign by Sunday night, promising to call a national strike if he did not.

“The regime once again showed Belarusians that force is the only thing it is capable of,” Tsikhanouskaya wrote in a statement. “That’s why on 26 October a national strike will begin.”

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2020 Sakharov Prize awarded to the democratic opposition in Belarus

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Democratic forces in Belarus have been protesting the brutal regime since August 

The democratic opposition in Belarus has been awarded the 2020 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. European Parliament President David Sassoli announced the laureates in the Brussels plenary chamber at noon today (22 October), following an earlier decision by the Conference of Presidents (president and political group leaders).

“Let me congratulate the representatives of the Belarusian opposition for their courage, resilience and determination. They have stood and still stay strong in the face of a much stronger adversary. But they have on their side something that brute force can never defeat - and this is the truth. So my message for you, dear laureates, is to stay strong and not to give up on your fight. Know that we are by your side,” President Sassoli said, following the decision.

“I would also like to add a word on the recent killing of one of this year’s finalists, Arnold Joaquín Morazán Erazo, part of the Guapinol environmental group. The group is opposing an iron oxide mine in Honduras. It is imperative that a credible, independent and immediate investigation is launched into this case and those responsible must be held to account,” he added.

Protesting against a brutal regime

The democratic opposition in Belarus is represented by the Coordination Council, an initiative of brave women, as well as prominent political and civil society figures. Read more about the laureates, as well as the other finalists here.

Belarus has been in the midst of a political crisis since the disputed presidential elections on 9 August, which led to an uprising against authoritarian President Aliaksandr Lukashenka and a subsequent brutal crackdown on demonstrators by the regime.

The Sakharov award ceremony will be held on 16 December.

On Wednesday (21 October), Parliament also adopted new recommendations calling for a comprehensive review of the EU's relations with Belarus. Read more here.

Background

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is awarded each year by the European Parliament. It was set up in 1988 to honour individuals and organisations defending human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is named in honour of Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov and the prize money is €50,000.

Last year, the prize was given to Ilham Tohti, an Uyghur economist fighting for the rights of China’s Uyghur minority.

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#Belarus - EU ups sanctions, while Tsikhanouskaya issues an ultimatum to Lukashenka

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EU foreign ministers met to discuss the continued deterioration in the situation in Belarus (12 October). The EU’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, said the EU was sending a clear message after the attacks on peaceful protesters on Sunday that ‘business as usual’ was no longer possible in EU-Belarus relations. The EU’s High Representative briefed ministers on a conversation he had with the Belarus Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vladimir Makei, where he underlined the EU’s support for democratic freedoms and the rights of Belarusian citizens to peacefully protest. He also stressed during the call, that the EU wanted to see an inclusive national dialogue, as well as the acceptance of the OSCE as a mediator. Ministers gave their political green light to start preparing the next sanctions package, which will include the Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko and members of his family. Today, one of the opposition leaders, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya issued an ultimatum to Lukashenka: 'Release political prisoners, end violence, resign by October 25, or the whole nation will strike, peacefully, on October 26 - blocked roads, no factory work, boycott of state shops.” She added, “'If you're waiting for my order, this is it.” Yesterday, the International Relations Advisor to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Franak Viacorka, reporter via Twitter that the Belarus Ministry of the Interior said: “The security forces won't leave the streets and will use lethal weapons if necessary. The protests, which shifted mainly to Minsk, became organized and extremely radical." EU Reporter asked the EU’s External Action Service spokesperson, Peter Stano, about this new threat. He said that with more bad behaviour the EU will continue to add to the sanctions list and restrictive measures, but will also reach out to call for an inclusive national dialogue.

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