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Belarus to Cut Russian Gas Imports After Nuclear Plant Begins

March 21 (Bloomberg) -- Belarus plans to cut Russian natural-gas imports after starting its first nuclear power plant in 2017.

The former Soviet republic will need to burn only half the amount of gas it does now for electricity, saving 5 billion cubic meters of the fuel annually or almost a quarter of imports, Deputy Energy Minister Mikhail Mikhadiuk said today during a conference on nuclear energy in the capital, Minsk.

Belarus imports about 22 billion cubic meters of gas a year, of which half is used to produce electricity, he said.

Belarus expects its first nuclear power plant to become fully operational in 2018 or 2019, First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko said at the conference. “The first unit of the nuclear facility will be started in 2017, the second unit one or two years later.”

Russia agreed to provide Belarus with a $10 billion export loan, covering 85 percent of the generator’s total cost, Semashko said. The two countries, which formed a customs union with Kazakhstan, will allocate $170 million this year to complete the initial phase of construction, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aliaksandr Kudrytski in Minsk, Belarus at akudrytski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Hellmuth Tromm at htromm@bloomberg.net

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