Westinghouse-Toshiba to bid on Belarus nuke station tender

Author : DPA

Minsk - The US-Japanese energy corporation Westinghouse- Toshiba will bid on the construction of a nuclear power station in Belarus, a US diplomat said Thursday. Westinghouse-Toshiba will compete against French Areva and Russian Atomstroiexport to act as general contractor for the project, estimated at between 23 to 25 million dollars in value.

The US government would not prevent Westinghouse from participating in the bidding process, but would insist on proper "international agreements" were the US side of the company actually to win the contract, US Ambassador Jonathan Moore said, according to a Belapan news agency report.

Mireille Musso, the French ambassador to Belarus, in comments earlier this week said Paris would consider approving Areva's participation in the tender process, but said a 12-point European Union recommendation for greater democracy in Belarus would influence the decision.

Belarusian leader Aleskander Lukashenko has been harshly criticized by NATO nations for his authoritarian government and oppression of opposition politicians and media.

Lukashenko has called the EU 12-point recommendations on democracy, and limits by Washington to US firms' operations in Belarus on grounds of Belarus' poor human rights record, foreign interference in Belarusian internal affairs.

Dependant on Russia for most of its energy, Belarus is badly in need of new power generation capacity of its own.

The Kremlin, unlike France and the US, has placed no strings on Russian companies' participation in the Belarusian nuclear power programme, but Lukashenko has said he is lukewarm on the idea, as that would continue Belarusian dependance on Moscow for energy.

Lukashenko earlier this year declared a return to the use of nuclear power as a keystone of a national energy independence programme, but international sanctions on Belarus have made attracting foreign interest in the project problematic.

Belarus was immediately downwind of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear station explosion, and suffered the world's worst damage from an atomic energy accident.