On the European Union’s northeastern frontier, two massive cooling towers loom out of the mist near a small Belorussian town. This is the nuclear plant of Ostrovets, Belarus’s first foray into atomic power and a source of national pride for the former Soviet country.
Construction has been ongoing at the site for five years and the first of two reactors is scheduled to come online in mid-2019. Both cooling towers are all but finished and the two reactor buildings and turbine halls have taken shape.
But the project is controversial. Located just 16km from the Lithuanian border and only 45km from the capital of Vilnius, the plant has been opposed from the very beginning by the Baltic neighbour, which has raised its objections at the highest level.
Belarus maintains that it has complied with all the legal requirements usually imposed during the planning and construction of a nuclear power plant (NPP) and insists that the site, 150km from its own capital of Minsk, was the only viable location.