The European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) has approved the preliminary report on the peer review of the new Belarusian nuclear power plant (NPP) in Astravets, the European Union announced on Thursday. Adopted by consensus on 3 March 3, 2021, this report follows a mission by ENSREG technical experts to the site carried out on February, 9-10, according to the announcement posted on the EU website.
Unit 1 of Belarus’ first nuclear power plant, being built with the assistance of the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom, reached nominal capacity for the first time in January 2021, that is, started operating at 100 percent capacity during the pilot operation. The unit started its pilot operation on December 22, 2020.
“The preliminary report reviews the measures implemented by Belarus with regard to seven issues and related recommendations from the 2018 ENSREG stress test report, which were identified as a priority by the peer review team”, the EU said. “The preliminary report concludes that, based on the information made available and the site visit, progress has been made in implementing all recommendations related to the seven priority issues”, it added.
According to the EU, the adoption of this report brings to a close the first phase of the ongoing peer review. The second phase will cover all the other recommendations and will include another ENSREG experts’ visit to the nuclear power plant as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic situation has improved.
“The final report of the peer review will be completed and published based on an analysis of the progress on remaining recommendations.The EU methodology for stress tests was developed in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. Belarus is participating in the process on a voluntary basis”, the EU said.
“The Commission will continue to engage with Belarus to ensure that the highest level of safety is guaranteed in the process of commissioning the nuclear power plant. The safety of nuclear installations in the EU and in neighbouring countries is a top priority of the European Commission and of the EU’s national nuclear safety authorities”, it added.
The Belarus NPP became the first VVER-1200 project successfully completed outside Russia. Currently, three reactors of this type are successfully operating in Russia – two at the Novovoronezh NPP and one at the Leningrad NPP. The fourth such reactor – unit 6 of the Leningrad NPP – reached 100 percent capacity on January 3, 2021. The unit’s state-of-the art Generation III+ VVER-1200 reactor is already operating in 3 power units in Russia and is a backbone of the Rosatom export order book consisting of 36 units across 12 markets, including Finland, Hungary, Uzbekistan, Turkey and Bangladesh.
According to the Belarusian NPP Project Manager, Vitaly Polyanin, “start of the operation at 100 percent capacity is the main event of the pilot operation stage at any nuclear power unit. Once the compliance of the actual operation parameters of the systems and equipment with the design requirements is verified, the unit will start commercial operation”.
According to Rosatom, the safety system of the twin-unit plant in Belarus has been “fully endorsed” by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which concluded that the design parameters account for site-specific external hazards, such as earthquakes, floods and extreme weather, as well as human-induced events, and that measures have been taken to address challenges related to external events in light of lessons from the Fukushima accident caused by the tsunami that hit the coast of Japan in 2011.
The IAEA has already conducted seven of the missions to the Belarus plant that it recommends for countries building their first NPP. In 2017-2018, Belarus voluntarily agreed to conduct the European Union nuclear safety stress tests, and had the results reviewed by the EU nuclear safety body, ENSREG, which had given the tests an “overall positive” mark.
The Belarus NPP, located in Ostrovets in the country’s Grodno region, comprises two VVER-1200 reactors with a total capacity of 2,400 MW. According to Rosatom, once fully completed, the plant is expected to supply about 18 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of low-carbon electricity to the Belarus national grid every year.
Meanwhile, Rosatom has become one of the five top most environmentally responsible Russian companies, according to the US business magazine Forbes. This is the first rating of environmental responsibility compiled by the magazine.
In a statement earlier this week, Rosatom said its activities seek improvement of the quality of living in accordance with the global agenda of sustainable development. “The most important aspect of sustainable development is the principle ‘Do no significant harm’, which means minimisation of contamination and adverse impact to ecosystems, reduction of consumption volume of water resources as well as the possibility of application of closed production cycle”, the company said.
“To implement requirements of sustainable development, Rosatom has adopted the Uniform Sectoral Policy in the Field of Sustainable Development. The important condition of Rosatom’s long-term strategy is the contribution to achievement of 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals”, the statement added.
In October 2020, Rosatom joined the UN Global Compact and signed the corresponding letter of adherence. In December 2020, the company become a member of the association “National Network of Global Compact”. As per Rosatom’s Annual Report for 2019, the company spent Rubles 23.55 billion on environmental protection activities.