Chinese nuclear company registers interest in Belarus

12 August 2008

China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPG) has expressed an interest in taking part in the construction of the first nuclear power plant in Belarus, according to the country's deputy energy minister.


Belarus approached three reactor constructors - Russia's AtomStroyExport (ASE), France's Areva, and US-Japanese Westinghouse-Toshiba - earlier this year to express their interest in building the postulated plant. Now, according to reports citing deputy energy minister Mikhail Mikhadzyuk, the Chinese company, which has 20 years of experience in reactor construction and operation, has also expressed an interest in building the postulated two-unit 2000 MWe plant.


Although none of the three constructors already approached by Belarus provided a negative response, according to press reports, ASE would appear to be the clear front-runner, followed by Areva - although talks with Areva have reportedly been postponed. Any participation by Westinghouse-Toshiba would require a bilateral agreement between Belarus and the USA on the peaceful use of nuclear power, which could take years to negotiate. However, Mikhadzyuk told a media conference held in Minsk that Rosatom, the federal Russian company of which ASE is a part, has confirmed its readiness to build a nuclear plant on a turnkey basis as well as considering helping to finance the project.


Belarus has not ruled out the possibility of a consortium of companies building the plant. According to Nuclear.Ru, Mikhadyuk said: "Belarus legislation on the use of atomic energy does not have limitations regarding the rights of ownership of the plant. We will consider offers of all potential partners."


Belarus, heavily energy dependent on gas imported from Russia, is moving ahead with plans for its first operating nuclear plant. At the beginning of 2008, the country's Security Council confirmed that it intended to build a nuclear power plant, and a bill enshrining the "fundamental principles" for the introduction of nuclear power was passed in June. Studies are under way at three potential plant locations, with plans for site work to start in 2009 or 2010 once a site is selected.