On Friday, the Minister of energy of Lithuania announced the filing of a lawsuit to Minsk due to the construction of nuclear power plant “with the cost savings of security.” This is another step of Vilnius in an aggressive campaign of fighting this project, which is of fundamental importance for Russia and Belarus. But what is the reason for this strange policy of Lithuania?
The recent statement of President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite that is under construction in Belarus, the Ostrovets NPP is for her country’s “existential security issue”, is not the first attempt of Vilnius to discredit the project. Lithuanian escapades directly affect the interests of the Russian industry. To build nuclear plant in Belarus the structures of the state Corporation “Rosatom” will have in terms of increasing pressure, which has many supporters not only in Lithuania but also in Belarus itself.
Asymmetrical exchange of arguments
“Nuclear terrorism and revenge… If bomb need to install over Vilnius, the head tells him to go to the end. Profitable or not – still”
The speech of Dalia Grybauskaite, President of Lithuania has promised to bring the information about the threats Astravets (Belarusian) NPP to be a Vice President of the United States Joe Biden, was preceded by a series of ambiguous events. In early may, the Lithuanian foreign Ministry handed the Ambassador of Belarus an official note in connection with the “possible incident” at the Ostrovets nuclear power plant: supposedly a few weeks before that the area between two reactors under construction collapsed concrete structures, as reported by the satellite channel Belsat broadcasting from Poland in the Belarusian language. In response to the note verbale the Ministry of energy of Belarus reported that on April 8 when laying the concrete slabs of one of the household and outbuildings was really a partial damage to the supporting structure of the formwork. However, the Ministry said, it was a defect during the preparatory work, the consequences have been eliminated, and “damage and destruction constructs, adopted by the customer, at the facilities of the Belarusian nuclear power plant during the construction was not.”
In the middle of the month there is a new message about the incident at nuclear power plant construction. One of the first this information was published by an activist of the Belarusian United civil party Mikalai Ulasevich, living in the city of Ostrovets. He wrote on his Facebook page, which is scheduled for July 11 the ceremony of installation of the reactor did not take place due to the fact that “a 330-ton unit, for unknown reasons, fell down from a height of 2 to 4 meters. At the same time received a comment from the Belarusian energy Ministry, was not so categorical as in may. The Ministry recognizes that on-site storage of the reactor vessel when carrying out lifting operations on its movement in the horizontal plane occurred “emergency situation”.
A few days were presented and an official comment from the state Corporation “Rosatom”, the structure of which is “Atomstroyexport”. As explained first Deputy Director of Rosatom Alexander Lokshin, on the night of July 9 to 10, the reactor vessel was planned to be used at a distance of about 10 meters, without changing its horizontal position, but in the process the subcontractor was deviation from instructions, from-for what there was a bias of the load when lifting the reactor vessel slipped in the slings and hung diagonally, coming into contact with the ground. However, according to Lokshina, to describe the situation of the language “hit the ground” or “drop” is wrong because “the velocity of the body did not exceed the walking speed and no significant impact housing has not suffered.
A separate part of the review was devoted to further action. The first Deputy head of Rosatom announced that in the case if customer decides not to use the ill-fated body, the first power unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant will be installed to the reactor vessel, destined for the second unit, its fabrication is now being completed at the plant “Atommash” in Volgodonsk. As the main argument in favor of this decision Lokshin brought considerations of public acceptability in the construction of the country’s first nuclear power plant”, stressing that “technical obstacles to the use case does not exist.” “No event that caused any damage, has not occurred. Max, what can you say about the erased on the body factory paint due to the friction of metal slings”, – stated in the message.
However, by the time when this review was presented to the public, have already been formulated and circulated a completely different version of events, and made it the Lithuanian side. All the same Grybauskaite, a longtime opponent of the construction of the Belarusian nuclear power plant has once again demanded from the neighbors to provide international standards of safety of operation of the station, threatening otherwise to connect the world community to prevent its exploitation. “Repeating one after the accident shows that our fears were justified,” – said the President of Lithuania. Two days later, the foreign Ministry once again brought Belarus a note about the nuclear power plant – for the third year.
The origins of the Lithuanian fears that the NPP is located just fifty kilometres from Vilnius. The reaction of the Lithuanian authorities was clearly couched in the logic of information warfare, one of the main methods of which is aggravating the situation by artificially maintain interest in the subject and the asymmetric responses to the arguments of the opponent. The next day after the appearance of the review of Rosatom Grybauskaite, presenting his credentials the new Ambassador of Lithuania in Belarus, Andrews Pulokas, said the need to demand access to the construction of nuclear power plants of some international experts. This requirement has sounded at least strange, because the International atomic energy Agency (IAEA) and so has the ability to track the progress of construction and does this regularly – following the organization’s mission will visit Belarus in early October.
Simultaneously with the speech Grybauskaite, Minister of foreign Affairs of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius has questioned the version of events in the presentation of the Russian state Corporation, and the Belarusian anti-nuclear campaign, unifying the movement “Scientists for nuclear-free Belarus”, the local Green party and the public movement “eco”, have sent open letters to the leadership of the country, the Director General of the IAEA and a number of organizations demanding the immediate stop of construction.
The next step of the opponents of nuclear power plants became a special conference of the Academy of Sciences of Lithuania, scheduled for August 23, the anniversary of the signing of the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact, one result of which was the annexation of the Baltic States to the USSR. It was at this conference made a statement Grybauskaite that the nuclear plant in Belarus is “an existential security issue”. “Ostrowiec is one of the tools that can be used in unconventional way against the Baltic countries,” – said the President of Lithuania, explicitly drawing Parallels with the events of 1939. And former Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius suggested that the doctrine of the Lithuanian Ministry of foreign Affairs the situation that Lithuania clearly against the Ostrovets NPP in any position of third parties.
The Revival Of The “Atommash”
Despite constant international pressure, the Belarusian authorities are not ready to abandon the project because it will allow you to significantly optimize the energy balance of Belarus. In particular, Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Semashko said that the introduction of NPP into operation will allow to replace about 5 billion cubic meters of gas or about a quarter of the amount which is consumed in the country per year (in 2015 Belarus “burned” 19.1 billion cubic meters).
If we look at this story from the Russian side, then entered into the final stage of the NPP construction is one of the biggest successes of the domestic nuclear industry in the international arena for the entire post-Soviet period. In this case, it is not important that the station is located on the territory closest to Russia of former Soviet States, as the fate of the project was difficult. Plans to construct in Belarus nuclear power plant, which could cover the energy deficit appeared in the early nineties, but only to the end of the last decade, the project began to take real shape. Moreover, the original for the right to build the station claimed not only Russia, but also France, China and even USA. However, the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko made a choice in favor of Russia, and in 2011 construction began.
A key supplier of equipment for the Belarusian nuclear power plant was chosen as the plant “Atommash”, built in 1970-ies in the Rostov region as the city-forming enterprises of the new Volgodonsk city. Thanks to this giant plant population of Volgodonsk in just a few years has increased fourfold, but after the Chernobyl accident the development of the company slowed, and the collapse of the USSR it has appeared in extremely difficult situation. A complete collapse has been avoided – at “Atommash” was launched production of equipment for gas turbine power plants and refining, but a full new life of the enterprise began in 2012 with the entry into the structure of state Corporation “Rosatom”. This allowed to expand the plant technical upgrade program (as of the end of last year were invested in the modernization of about 3 billion rubles) and to significantly increase its staff.
Already in 2013, “Atommash” receives the order for manufacturing of the reactor VVER-1200 for a power unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant – the first in 30 years, first exported and most powerful in the CIS (1200 MW). Shipment to the customer of the reactor, on which work was completed in October last year, was perhaps the major event in post-Soviet history of the plant. Followed by Belarus at “Atommash” it is planned to produce equipment for the nuclear industry of other countries – India (Kudankulam NPP), China, Turkey (Akkuyu NPP”), Finland and others. The enterprise plans is the development of production of components for new reactor plants VVER-TOI with the capacity of 1300 MW and a life of 100 years instead of the current 60 years.
In this context, the aggravation of the situation around the Belarusian NPP is directly affecting the interests of the “Atommash” – too much in this project is done for the first time. Therefore, the leadership of Rosatom is to make every effort to avert any suspicion from the Volgodonsk plant, as evidenced by some of the language in comments about the July incident at the plant. The blame for the incident was assigned to the subcontracted organization, with both the material and immaterial part. “In the information field arose a doubt as to the appropriateness of this corps, that at least is reputational damage. That is the fault of these people, and in General subcontractors,” said Lokshin.
“A common problem of the EU”
But let us return to Lithuania, to answer the question whether the only “security” is such a violent opposition to the project. Former speaker of the Saeima and the head of the Supreme Council of Lithuania in the period of its separation from the Soviet Union, Vytautas Landsbergis said at the already mentioned conference of the Academy of Sciences in expressions did not hesitate. “Nuclear terrorism and revenge… If bomb need to install over Vilnius, the head tells him to go to the end. Profitable or not – all the same. Will be done, as the great head, as guilty as a small squire. Let’s help this “squire”, raising the direct question of responsibility, calling to understand it and to change the place of construction,” he said, obviously hinting at Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko and insisting that construction near the Lithuanian border is conducted exclusively in spite of Lithuania. But the Professor says: “This is a direct threat and damage – now, first, because of the restrictions on economic development”.
Recall that separated from the Soviet Union, Lithuania became the 21st country in the world that uses nuclear energy to generate electricity. The Republic inherited the legacy of the Union Ignalina NPP meets the needs of Lithuania by 80% and important status in the provision of energy in the region, but was closed at the request of the EU do not meet European security criteria. In principle, this in itself is not a problem was – you can buy cheap electricity from Russia, but Lithuania fell into the “energy dependence on Russia”, but in the Baltics it sounds like a curse. To prevent such “dependence” from Vilnius rigidly requires Washington, and the Vilnius – from other EU countries, diligently resisting, for example, the construction of the “Northern streams” (both first and second). To solve the largely imaginary problem has been with electricity links with Poland and Sweden, which cost me a lot more than 600 million euros.
Parallel to the vicinity of the Ignalina plant in Visaginas began to build a new station – modern, corresponding to all the requirements of EU and Japanese Hitachi reactor (the same, incidentally, was on the infamous “Fukushima-1”). The construction of NPP in Belarus started just two years after the closure of Ignalina, and commissioned it will be ten years before the station in Visaginas, in 2018. the energy strategy of Lithuania it does not fit.
First, everything goes to the fact that the participation of Belarus energy will be extremely beneficial not only to Lithuania but to the entire region (Lukashenko has said that a nuclear power plant in Astravets will be the cheapest in the world), that is again, the infamous “energy dependence on Russia” (even though NPP is in Belarus, the project is Russian). Second, a nuclear power plant in Visaginas will work only when the energy market is already going to be busy the Belarusian-Russian competitors.
Therefore, in Vilnius brewing resentment against the EU, which framed the Republic, providing competitors on the energy market long advantage. And if the NPP project in Belarus will not be able to torpedo, they need to defend themselves- and not in the nuclear sense, namely in the economic. The Parliament has registered a draft law explicitly prohibiting the Cabinet of Ministers not only to buy electricity from Belarus and Lithuania to provide the infrastructure for its resale to a third country, but even to negotiate on this. The next step is to persuade our neighbors to do the same, pushing them through Brussels. As said Dalia Grybauskaite during a recent meeting with the Vice-President of the European Commission on energy Union maroš Šefčovič: “Ostrovets NPP should be a General EU problem”.