The signing of a contract between Russia and Belarus to build the ex-Soviet republic's first nuclear power plant has been delayed due to disagreements over the project's cost, the Russian ambassador to Belarus said on Wednesday.
The ex-Soviet country, which was one of the most affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, plans to build the plant in its western Grodno region, with the first reactor expected to be put into service in 2016 and the second in 2018. The Russian nuclear equipment export monopoly, Atomstroyexport, is to implement the project.
"We are at the stage of signing an inter-governmental agreement on the construction of the nuclear power plant. There are differences only on one issue - the cost," Alexander Surikov said.
The Belarusians wanted Russia to cover the project's risks, which Russia was not willing to do, he said, adding "if the Belarusian government takes upon itself the risks, the issue of financing and constructing the plant is settled."
Nikolai Grusha, head of the nuclear energy department at the Belarusian Energy Ministry, earlier said estimates for the construction were based on Atomstroyexport's overseas experience, according to which the contractor financed 85% of construction works and the client 15%.
Belarus, which earlier intended to announce a tender for the construction of its first nuclear power plant, then selected Russia without holding a tender as Moscow pledged to provide Minsk with a loan for the construction.
In May 2009, Belarus asked Russia for a $9 billion loan. In February 2010, Surikov said Russia was ready to provide a loan to its western neighbor, but did not specify the sum, saying the loan would cover only part of the construction works.
Last week, during a meeting with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Minsk, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko invited China to participate in the project and Beijing pledged to invest some $10 billion in the Belarusian economy.
Commenting on Lukashenko's move, Surikov said Russia was likely to withdraw from the project if China was involved.
"We have our own secrets and we do not want to share them with young Chinese firms," he said.
MINSK, March 31 (RIA Novosti)