Belarusian leader calls for swifter progress on nuclear plant

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

MINSK, January 15 (RIA Novosti) - Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on Tuesday he was not satisfied with the speed of progress on a project to build the country's first nuclear power plant.

The president announced in October that a nuclear plant would be built in the country to ensure national energy security amid rising fossil fuel prices.

"Preparations for the construction of the nuclear power plant are proceeding very slowly," Lukashenko told a Security Council session on nuclear energy.

"No clear forecasts have been made on how all internal and external factors may affect the construction, and many important aspects, such as the construction site and the primary contractor, remain unspecified," the president said.

He warned against delaying the issue, particularly in view of soaring prices of hydrocarbons. "A large number of nuclear power plants are planned to be built throughout the world, while we, with our Belarusian mentality, are speculating whether we need them or not," the president said.

Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky said last October that the country would hold a tender in 2008 for a project to build a nuclear power plant, at which Russian and Western partners are expected to bid.

Sidorsky said the government was studying several potential sites for the future plant, which is expected to meet 15% of the country's electricity needs.

The energy ministry earlier said the plant would be built in the eastern Mogilyov Region, 100 km (62 miles) from the border with Russia, with the first reactor to be commissioned in 2017 and the second in 2020.

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