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Belarus: a nuclear power plant inaugurated by Belarusian president has suspended electricity production

A nuclear power plant that some neighbouring countries have opposed because of safety concerns has been inaugurated by Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko.

It was built by Russian Rosatom and financed by Russia. Its construction near the city of Ostrovets, was highly opposed and criticized by Lithuania, whose capital Vilnius is just 50 kilometres away. Estonia and Latvia have supported Vilnius and have accused Minsk of violating safety measures at the plant’s construction.

Belarusian president visited the site in Ostrovets on 7 November, where he witnessed the increase in the generating capacity of unit 1 to 400 MW. “This is a historical moment. The country will become a nuclear power,” Lukashenko said in comments broadcast on state television. Belarusian president considers this nuclear power station as a new step into the future, towards ensuring the energy security of the state.

But a few days upon launching its first Russian-built reactor Belarusian nuclear power plant has terminated electricity production.

According to Radio Free Europe, a plant official confirmed the stoppage on Tuesday. That statement followed remarks by Belarus’ energy ministry a day earlier that some pieces of equipment must be replaced to resume electricity production at the reactor.

According to an anonymous source speaking with the Tut.by independent Belarusian news portal, the main reason of electricity production interruption was explosion at the plant’s voltage transformers measuring power in electrical circuits as reported by bellona.org.

The source added that “formally, nothing out of the ordinary happened,” as similar incidents at other Russian-built nuclear power plants occur. A clear date when the reactor would begin generating electricity is unknown.

Construction at the plant was delayed in 2015 when a 330-ton reactor pressure vessel fell from a height of four meters. Officials tried to conceal the incident, but the truth came out. Rosatom stated that the reactor wasn’t damaged, but it agreed to replace the unit at the demand of Belarusian authorities.

In recent weeks, Lithuanian authorities have handed out free iodine pills to people living near the Belarus border as Iodine is considered capable to reduce radiation build-up in the thyroid in case of a leak of radioactivity.

The nuclear plant has also caused disagreements within the Belarus, which experienced severe damage from the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

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