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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

IAEA to oversee Belarus nuclear plant project

RIA Novosti

06/05/2008 10:55 MINSK, May 6 (RIA Novosti) - An IAEA mission will arrive in Belarus on Tuesday for a three-day visit to oversee a project to build the country's first nuclear power plant, the general designer said.

The proposed plant, with a capacity of 2,000 MW, is expected to provide electricity equal to that generated from five billion cubic meters of natural gas, at half the cost.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said the location for the plant should be chosen this spring in line with International Atomic Energy Agency's recommendations and in order that preparations for the NPP construction can start.

A tender for the reactor is due to be announced in 2009, and the first unit is planned to be launched in 2016.

The IAEA specialists from Pakistan, Germany and Italy "have experience in choosing locations for construction of nuclear power plants in their countries and will provide Belarusian specialists with methodical and other aid," a Belnipienergoprom spokesman said.

Environmental and opposition groups have spoken out against the country's nuclear project saying that the government has provided little information regarding the construction.

The former Soviet republic, Belarus was among the regions worst hit by the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in neighboring Ukraine and the after-effects of the nuclear disaster are still being felt.

The Chernobyl tragedy was caused by overheating following a disastrous experiment involving fuel rods, which was ironically aimed at improving safety.

Vast areas, including beyond the Soviet Union, were contaminated by the fallout of the explosion. As a result, 56 people, mainly rescue workers, were killed at the scene, and another 4,000 died of thyroid cancer shortly afterwards.

More than 300,000 people were relocated. Some 5 million people live in areas of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine classified as "contaminated" by radioactive elements.

Several million more people are believed to have been exposed to varying degrees of radiation.

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