Moscow, Minsk sign deal to build nuclear plant in Belarus

Moscow (Platts)--16Mar2011/553 am EDT/953 GMT

Moscow and Minsk signed a framework agreement late Tuesday to partner on construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus, even as much of the developed world re-examines the role of nuclear power in light of the reactor crisis in Japan.

The document, along with several other agreements, was signed in the presence of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his Belarusian counterpart Mikhail Myasnikovich, according to a Russian government website.

"Modern systems, modern nuclear energy blocks are equipped with safety features that prevent the possible development of events along the lines of today's Japanese scenario," Putin said during a news conference after the signing, adding that the Japanese plant facing meltdown was 40 years old.

"Systems of passive protection can work without external energy sources and even without human intervention when dealing with any incident. These are the types of plants we are building in Russia, and the type of plant we plan to build in Belarus," Putin said, according to the transcript.

"The safety and reliability of the future nuclear plant are the most important tasks and priorities," Myasnikovich said at the same event.

Putin said Russia expects to extend Belarus an approximately $6 billion line of credit within a month, and was open to the possibility of additional financing to help pay for surrounding infrastructure.

Putin also noted that Russia has offered $2.5 billion in credit to China and $2.6 billion to India, and was in discussions to extend an additional $4 billion credit to India.

"The size of these credits depends on the amount of equipment that the country making the order cannot produce on its own," Putin said.

He reiterated that earlier in the day he ordered a month-long review of Russia's nuclear industry and reaffirmed Russia's long-term goal of increasing nuclear power to up to 25% of the country's energy mix.

Nuclear power currently provides around 16% of Russia's electricity, with an overall installed capacity of 24.2 GW.

The framework agreement between Russia and Belarus was first announced in January, when Putin said he expected the sides to sign it in the first quarter of 2011.

At the time, Putin said Belarusian participation in the project would amount to 30-40%. At the same event, Myasnikovich then said the power station represents around 28% of Belarus' current installed capacity.

Belarus plans to launch the first stage of a 2,400 MW nuclear power plant in the Grodno region, close to the Lithuanian border, in 2016 and the second stage in 2018.


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