Vladimir Semashko, Belarus' Vice Premier, said his government had signed a contract with a division of Ukraine's national nuclear power agency to design and build Belarus' first nuclear reactor, the Interfax news agency reported.
"Our cooperation on nuclear power has moved beyond plans and talk," Semashko said. "We will go forward with this project."
A reactor at Ukraine's Chernobyl station melted down in March 1986, causing the worst nuclear power accident in history.
Semashko claimed Ukrainian nuclear power technologies were among the world's best, and that Ukraine "is a nuclear energy superpower."
Despite the Chernobyl accident, Ukraine has remained an enthusiastic proponent of nuclear energy, using reactors to generate just over half its electricity.
The reactor to be built in Belarus would be an advanced third generation reactor far safer than the one that melted down at Chernobyl, Semashko said.
The Belarusian decision to use Ukrainian nuclear technologies had been widely predicted by observers, because of the small number of nuclear-capable nations willing to assist politically-isolated Belarus.
Aleksander Lukashenko, Belarus' President, is a pariah with most developed nations for his authoritarian rule.
He has rejected the idea of developing nuclear weapons for Belarus, but is a strong proponent of nuclear power as a way to ensure Belarusian energy independence.
Lukashenko fell out with Russia, another possible source for Belarus of nuclear technologies, one year ago after the Kremlin overnight doubled the price of oil and gas sold to its western neighbour, leaving Ukraine as one of the few countries with functioning commercial relations with Minsk.
Semashko said that at least some of the components of the reactor would be produced in Ukraine, but the bulk would be produced in Belarus.
The disposal of Belarusian nuclear waste - another worry in the European Union - was "still under discussion," he added. "This is a sensitive question."
Belarus and Ukraine, in that order, were the nations most badly polluted by radiation from the Chernobyl accident.
Almost one quarter of southeast Belarus still is to some extent radioactive, with hundreds of square kilometres considered unsuitable for human habitation.
Use of the area for storage of nuclear waste would, however, cause problems for the Lukashenko regime, which has embarked on a national campaign to reclaim radioactive areas for use.
Last Mod: 01 Mart 2008, 12:00