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 earlier this month, that is, started operating at 100 percent capacity during the pilot operation, according to an official statement. The unit started its pilot operation on December 22, 2020.
“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”, the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) Project Manager, Vitaly Polyanin, said in a statement.
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.
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 statement said.
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 it recommends for countries building their first NPP to the Belarus plant. In 2017-2018, Belarus voluntarily agreed to conduct the European Union (EU) nuclear safety stress tests, and had the results reviewed by the EU nuclear safety body, ENSREG, which has given the tests an “overall positive” mark, Rosatom said.
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.