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MEPs raise safety concerns over a new nuclear plant in Belarus

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A man in a horse drawn carriage travels on a road, with Belarus's first nuclear plant in the background near Astravets, Belarus, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.
A man in a horse drawn carriage travels on a road, with Belarus's first nuclear plant in the background near Astravets, Belarus, Friday, Aug. 7, 2020.   -   Copyright  Credit: AP
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MEPs have called for the commercial launch of a new nuclear power plant in Belarus to be suspended amid safety concerns.

Russia’s state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, which built the plant, has rejected claims the Astravets facility is unsafe, saying the design conforms to the highest international standards.

It began producing electricity in November 2020 but did so before satisfying outstanding safety concerns, claim MEPs.

They voted by 642 to 29 on Thursday to suspend the commercial launch of the facility, which is set for March, according to the European Parliament.

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia pledged to stop buying power from Belarus last year.

But it hasn't stopped electricity from the plant entering the EU as the Baltic countries are still connected to the Russian system - which includes Belarus.

Pavel Havlicek, a research fellow at the Association for International Affairs in Prague, explained what the areas of particular concern are - and who is calling for the plant to be suspended.

"So there are several levels of concern, actually. First is obviously related to the security because that was questioned by both the EU and also Lithuanian authorities.

"The EU Investigation Commission is in Belarus just this week, and it's about to conclude the investigation in several weeks and months time.

"So we are still yet to see some of the results. But some of the major concerns that were, for example, voiced by the Lithuanian atomic energy regulators is related to the fact that the ground below the power station is unstable and there are risks of earthquakes and also other tests were not done properly. So there is a number of issues related to the security of the plant."

Watch the full interview with Havlicek in the video player, above.