In July 2009 a complaint about the planned Belarusian NPP was developed by the European ECO Forum legal team and submitted to the Implementation Committee of the Espoo Convention by Ecoclub, NGO (Ukraine).
The Committee of the Espoo Convention reviewed the provided information and agreed to gather further information on the proposed activity, and whether the Government of Belarus had taken the necessary measures to implement the provisions of the Convention. The Committee requested the Chair to write to the Government of Belarus seeking relevant information and asking for a reply.
The Committee also decided to contact affected Parties identified by the NGO (Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine) to enquire into their experiences, if any, in the application of the Convention to the proposed activity. The Committee requested the secretariat to inform the NGO of the actions taken. The Belarusian Side agreed with Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine to conduct public hearings concerning the project.
After a public hearing in Vilnius on March 2, concerning the planned construction of the Belarusian NPP, several environmental initiatives – the Belarusian Green Party, the Russian group Ecodefense!, a movement called “Scientists for a Nuclear-Free Belarus,” and the non-governmental organisation Ecodom – prepared and distributed a document called “Critical notes on the ‘Statement on Potential Environmental Impact of the Belarusian NPP.’
The document includes a 23-item list elaborating the errors and oversights on the part of the official environmental evaluation statement’s authors. The main conclusion in the Critical Notes claims that the official statement downplays significantly the NPP’s anticipated impact on the surrounding environment and the health of the local population both as part of standard-mode operation and in case of an accident.
Since last September, however, neither the official environmental impact statement’s authors nor Belarusian authorities have offered any response to the criticism. On March 31 the third Public hearing took place in Kyiv (Ukraine) to evaluate the environmental impact (EIA) power plant construction project 2000MWt in Belarus.
During the hearing everyone had the opportunity to represent their respective positions. In the beginning Belarusian officials represented the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the planned Belarusian NPP.
Then members of different NGOs represented an alternative view on the project, for instance:
* The EIA was presented only as a brief non-technical overview and the full version oft the EIA is not accessible
* It did not become clear from the presented form of the EIA, how the Belarusian side means to deal with nuclear waste and spent fuel management
* There was no information on the decommissioning of the planned NPP
* In the event of a severe accident emissions will be higher than officially stated
* The EIA ignores the fact that the NPP could affect Ukrainian territory
In the official protocol the following conclusion is written:
* Environmental NGOs expressed concern about incomplete and poor quality of EIA preparation;
* arguments from the Belarusian side on environmental safety of planned nuclear power plant construction were considered insufficient;
* the design and construction of the Belarusian nuclear power plant were opposed.
According to the Espoo Convention Belarussia has to take the comments they received into account. We will see if and how they do.
The complaint on non-compliance by Belarus with its obligations under Espoo Convention in the course of construction of a nuclear power plant and submitted by the Ecoclub NGO (Ukraine) is available at: http://www.rac.org.ua/index.php?id=106&L=1