What's behind the construction fence around Belarus’ first nuclear power plant?
Belarus’ authoritarian president of more than 20 years, Alyaksandr Lukashenka, decided several years ago to build a nuclear power plant, despite public opposition. Ordinary Belarusians suffered the most from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which forced about 140,000 to leave their homes forever and caused a spike in cancer rates.
Although work on the plant has been going on for several years, Belarusians do not know exactly what is behind the site fence. Independent journalists are not allowed in, and there are unverified reports of safety violations and even a loss of life occurring at the site. Environmentalists say the project ignores standards and norms and will constitute a hazard in the future.
I have spoken to some workers at the site, which they say violates labor laws. They say they work 12 hours a day and are not paid for overtime and that some of their colleagues are not paid regularly. Local activists have told me about other violations during the construction, but the workers with whom I spoke were not able to confirm them.
State security services conduct background checks on everyone at the site, with many suddenly dismissed for unknown reasons. This keeps people there intimidated and afraid to talk.
Still, I hope to talk to the family of a worker allegedly killed at the site. I want to investigate what the authorities are hiding from prying eyes. What if any violations have occurred at the site?
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