Construction of a nuclear power plant: more questions than answers
Russia and Belarus signed an agreement on the construction of the first nuclear power plant in Belarus. So far the agreement is only a declaration of intent and the fate of the Belarusian NPP has not yet been defined. Russia wants to be the co-owner of the Belarusian NPP, which is unacceptable for Belarus.
The “Atomstroiexport” and the “Management of a Nuclear Power Plant” (Belarus) signed an agreement on the construction of the first nuclear power plant in Belarus. Contractual arrangements define the basic provisions of the principal contract for the construction of two nuclear power units with a total generating capacity of it sB-941 reactors of up to 2400 megawatts in total. Atomstroiexport, a subsidiary company of Russia`s Nuclear Energy State Corporation (Rosatom), is to bear full responsibility for the project. The AES-2006 design has been selected for the plant.
Belarus expects to receive a USD 9 billion preferential loan from the Russian government for the construction of the NPP and infrastructure. Belarus would like to receive the loan for 25 years with deferred payment until the completion of the construction of the plant.
However, regardless of the signed agreement, the final cost of the project is still unknown. Also, neither party took the responsibility to voice the approximate dates of signing of the loan agreement. Terms and conditions of financing of the project have not been agreed either. Neither the schedule of expenses, nor the ditch has been prepared to the moment (though promised by summer).
Belarus expects to receive a USD 9 billion preferential loan from the Russian government for the construction of the NPP and infrastructure.
Sources in the Ministry of Energy say that there will be no final project cost, that Russia will open a credit line for Belarus in this regard of up to USD 10 billion. Russia wants to become the owner of the Belarusian nuclear power plant within the provided funding however, it is unacceptable for Belarus. The delay in signing of the loan agreement will affect the signing of all other contracts associated with the construction (e.g., concerning the equipment with a long production cycle (36 months or more)), which could significantly change the schedule of entry of the NPP in operation.
The Belarusian authorities are attempting to strengthen some elements of the ‘Soviet’ education to ensure the ideological loyalty of new generations to the state. Most likely, one of the major tasks of the educational reform is to prevent growing discontent with the existing education system among the population. The educational reform aims to strengthen centralisation and adjust the system to the needs of the public sector.
In Belarus, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Ministry of Economy would determine the university enrolment figures.
The Belarusian authorities do not seem to have a long-term vision of the educational reform. The education system changes depending on who leads the Education Ministry and has access to President Lukashenka. For instance, former head of pro-government communist party and Education Minister Igor Karpenko reintroduced some "Soviet" elements to the school and strengthened ideological components along with the de-politicisation of the curricula. Current generation of students and youth have not spoken against the authorities, unlike previous generations raised during the Gorbachev thaw and socio-political transformations of the 1990s.
In addition, the Belarusian authorities are attempting to adopt measures aiming to prevent discontent among the population with the Belarusian education system. The authorities are mobilizing those nostalgic for the USSR and propose to return to 5-marks grading system, school uniforms and reduced curriculum. The Belarusian leadership also aims to blur the growing social stratification in society and to relax social tension due to the growing income gap between the richest and poorest.
Should the authorities adopt plans to reduce university enrolment, they would re-certify universities in order to close some of them and would reduce competition from private educational institutions. The Belarusian leadership is attempting to adjust the education system to the needs of the real economy, to reduce pressure on the labour market and to cut government spending on higher education for specialists low in demand by replacing them with graduates of secondary vocational schools requiring less time to train.