Even as the world is gripped by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, Russia announced it will build a reactor in neighboring Belarus—where large areas still remain closed off due to the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown. The Russian-designe plant is to be built near Ostrovets, just 50 miles from the capital city of European Union member Lithuania. The deal was announced March 15 at a meeting between Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk. Under the agreement, Russia's state-owned Atomstroyeksport will build the nuclear station, with the first reactor due to come on line in 2016 and as many as four more reactors operational by 2025.
Putin defended the project, saying the five VVER-1200 pressurized water reactors Russia plans to install in Ostrovets are the "latest technology," whereas the failing US-built units at Fukushima are 40 years old. "The level of protection will be substantially higher than in Japan, and that's not taking into account that Belarus is not in a seismic fault zone like Japan," Putin said. Irina Sukhiy of the Belarussian environmental group Ecodom was not convinced, telling reporters: "This project is economically unviable and ecologically dangerous. We call on the Russian government to reconsider participating in it."
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