MOSCOW (AP) — Belarus’ first nuclear power plant began operating Tuesday, a project that has spooked its neighbor Lithuania, which immediately cut off importing electricity from Belarus at the news.
The Russian-built Astravyets nuclear power plant, 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius, has been connected to Belarus’ power grid and has started producing electricity, according to Belarusian electricity operator Belenergo.
“We are working closely with Belarus’s national nuclear regulator, the World Association of Nuclear Operators, and with the EU’s European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group to make absolutely certain that there are no unaddressed risks or ‘threats to safety,’” Rosatom said in a statement issued to The Associated Press.
The power plant’s construction was delayed when the reactor’s hull slipped to the ground in July 2016 after workers failed to strap it properly during installation. Rosatom insisted at the time that the reactor wasn’t damaged, but it agreed to replace the unit at the demand of Belarusian authorities.
Lithuania closed its sole Soviet-built nuclear power plant in 2009 and has forbidden the purchase of energy from Belarus.
In recent weeks, Lithuanian authorities have handed out free iodine pills to residents living near the Belarus border. Iodine can help reduce radiation build-up in the thyroid in case of a leak of radioactivity.