Moscow lends Minsk cash for nuclear plant

MOSCOW, March 16 (UPI) -- A deal to provide a $6 billion loan to Belarus for the country's first nuclear power plant could materialize within a month, the Russian prime minister said.

Russia agreed to provide nuclear assistance to Belarus during bilateral energy talks in Minsk this week. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Wednesday his country could lend Minsk about $6 billion for the construction of a nuclear power plant.

"A relevant agreement could be signed within a month," he was quoted by Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti.

The power plant could meet more than 25 percent of the country's electricity demand at current consumption rates. The first reactor could go into service as early as 2016 with a second reactor in place by 2018.

The deal comes amid renewed scrutiny of the European nuclear sector in the aftermath of last week's magnitude-9 earthquake in Japan. Japan's nuclear power plants are on the verge of meltdown following the temblor.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a government security decree Tuesday to suspend electricity production at all nuclear plants built before 1980.

Merkel called the nuclear disaster in Japan "a turning point in the history of technology-based society" but denied the re-examination of her nuclear policy had anything to do with a crucial regional election scheduled for the end of March.


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