Text messages and sirens: Lithuania tests preparedness for Belarus NPP incident

On October 1, the state-level civil protection exercises kicked off in Lithuania.

It is not the first time that Vilnius has been holding the drills on a nationwide scale. But this time, the Lithuanian government has announced the simulation of a nuclear or radiological situation at the Astravets nuclear power plant in neighbouring Belarus. According to the legend, the Lithuanian monitoring system detects increasing the level of radiation while Minsk remains silent about what has happened.

The goal is to test the authorities’ readiness to provide a proper emergency response to the presumable threat.

The seeming evacuation and distribution of iodine tablets will take place on October 2; the following text messages have been sent to Lithuanian residents today:

Text message from Lithuanian government. Phot. Hanna Rusinava / Belsat.eu

“The Fire and Rescue Department informs that a test of the public warning and information system is being conducted; the sirens being put on. Please keep calm, turn on Lithuanian radio or TV. After the sound of sirens is over, listen to the information provided. For more information, visit www.pagd.lrv.lt and www.lt72.lt.”

A single message received on time can help prevent a disaster, Lithuania’s Interior Minister Rita Tamašunienė believes.

“Therefore, I strongly encourage checking if this information reaches you,” she said on Monday.

In addition, the Government Emergency Commission which is espected to appoint the head of the Operations Centre to conduct exercises will be convened on Tuesday.

The drills will last till October, 4.

No turning back? Belarus is 97% ready to launch NPP

Lithuania has repeatedly criticized the construction of the nuclear power plant and encouraged the rest of the countries of the United Europe to not buy electricity from the would-be NPP. Belarus’ neighbour is not only concerned about the proximity of the station to Vilnius, but also with a number of emergencies during the NPP construction.

For example, in 2017, while moving the reactor vessel for the first unit of BelNPP, workers let it slip out and touch the ground.

In July 2019, during construction work at the Astravets NPP, the 59-year-old and 23-year-old workers fell from a height as a result of a breakdown in the work of the truck tower, sustaining serious injuries.

The recent scandal surrounding the construction of the Belarusian nuclear power plant was connected with the Russian builders not receiving salaries for their work.

As reported earlier, the department of the Investigation Committee (IC) in Hrodna region is investigating a criminal case launched under Article 252 of the Criminal Code (commercial bribery) against the head of the ventilation and firefighting systems of the Russian company Atomstroyexport, Oleg Zinoviev. The agency notes that his poor quality work has led to the situation where the ventilation equipment, as well as the aggregates and valves to suppress fire at the station, were installed without passing the necessary control checks. According to the IC, violations may lead to ‘whole system failure’ at the Astravets nuclear power plant.

It is planned to launch the first BelNPP reactor in the coming months.