Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda intends to distribute copies of the hit HBO series Chernobyl to EU leaders in order to warn them about the alleged dangers posed by Belarus’ recently built nuclear power plant. He is expected to distribute the DVDs at an informal EU summit in Porto on May 7 and 8.
“The president’s gesture is a simple, non-traditional way to [draw] the attention of EU leaders to the danger posed by the Astravyetz [nuclear power plant in Belarus] not only for Lithuania, but for the entire EU,” a presidential administration official told Lithuania’s ELTA news agency. “The president believes this film is very effective,” Nausėda’s office added.
Another question is whether Vilnius’ concerns about the Astravyetz plant’s safety are justified, and it’s possible that they are. However, making any connections to the Chernobyl disaster is completely illogical. The reactor at the plant was a joint project between Belarus and Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear energy company. The latter no longer even builds reactors with similar technology to the one used in Chernobyl, as has been the case for many years. Last April, this issue was widely debated in Russia’s industrial circles.
Furthermore, the company made numerous improvements to its reactor designs, which were based on an analysis of the Chernobyl disaster. According to Rosatom, “all modern Russian reactors meet all modern safety norms and requirements, including those set by the International Atomic Energy Agency.” While many have pointed out significant historical inaccuracies in the play, Lithuania’s president appears to have decided it’s good enough to use as a persuasive tool in real-life politics.
Vilnius claims that the Astravyetz nuclear power plant, built about 60 kilometers from the Lithuanian capital, is a “Moscow’s geopolitical project” guided by “similar Soviet secrecy principles” as the Chernobyl disaster; a flat-out lie. Yet, “the EU must act immediately,” according to the statement.
Lithuania has been embroiled in a protracted dispute with Belarus over the power plant, which is set to come online in November 2020. Vilnius repeatedly expressed concerns about its safety and strongly opposed its construction. The Lithuanian government immediately banned Belarusian power imports after the plant began operations.
Dainius Kreivys, Lithuania’s energy minister, told local media in February that his country was still importing significant amounts of energy from Belarus, which surprised Minsk. Later, the Belarus Ministry of Energy stated that the claim did not “correspond to reality.”
The five-part HBO miniseries, a dramatization of one of history’s worst nuclear accidents, has captivated audiences all over the world, becoming one of the highest-rated TV shows on the film database IMDB. It is now also a Russia-bashing tool for one of Europe’s least serious governments.
The nuclear power plant in question gets its name from its location: the Astravyetz District in Belarus’ Grodno Region. The plant’s initial plans were announced in the 1980s, but were suspended following the 1986 disaster, and this appears to be the only connection or association that can be made with Chernobyl. The energy dispute between Russia and Belarus in 2007 fueled the project’s revival. The plant consists of two nuclear reactors built between 2016 and 2020, with two more reactors likely to be added by 2025. Atomstroyexport supplied the reactors.
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