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First reactor of Belarus’ controversial Astravets nuclear power plant achieves criticality, Baltic states are outraged by project

First reactor of Belarus’  controversial Astravets nuclear power plant achieves criticality, Baltic states are outraged by project
The first of two Russian-built reactors at the new Belarusian nuclear power plant, at Astravets, is almost ready to go. Located near the border with Lithuania and Latvia, the Baltic states have fiercely opposed the project.

Along with Estonia, the pair have pledged to stop electricity trade with Minsk when the plant is finally operational. The Astravets nuclear power plant (known in Belarus as BelAes) is a joint project with Russia’s state atomic energy corporation, Rosatom. On Sunday, the first chain reaction was launched at one of the VVER-1200 type reactors and sustained at the minimum controlled power level, Belarus’ energy ministry reported.

The reactor is expected to pass through several tests before it becomes fully operational and starts supplying electricity to the power grid sometime next year.

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The nuclear project has outraged Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The power plant is located in northwestern Belarus some 20km from the Lithuanian border and 50km from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. The EU member has been treating it as a major security threat since the inception of the project.

In late August, Lithuania and its Baltic allies reached an agreement, under which all their electricity trade with Belarus would stop after the plant launched. The countries are planning to introduce a system certifying the origin of electricity. 

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