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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lukashenko Wants Nuclear Plant Next Year

MINSK -- Belarus, at odds with traditional ally Russia over energy supplies, hopes to start building its first nuclear power plant in 2008 to ensure energy independence, President Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday.

Belarus has practically no energy resources of its own. Discussions about building a nuclear plant have been under way since last year.

"There is no alternative to producing our own nuclear energy to ensure our national security," Lukashenko said at a meeting devoted to the construction project, local media reported.

"In 2008, we should complete planned construction work, which will enable us to start the actual construction of the station," he said.

Belarus has set the cost of building a nuclear plant at $2.5 billion to $2.8 billion, to be financed with external borrowing. Construction is expected to take four to eight years.

Lukashenko has long spoken of diversifying energy sources in the country of 10 million, and projects have included extraction of oil in Iran and Afghanistan.

Debate has intensified since the New Year, when Belarus quarreled with Russia over the price and tax regime for deliveries of oil and gas.

No site has yet been selected for the plant.