The Ostrovets nuclear plant in Belarus has passed stress tests by investigators of the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG), who gave it an “overall positive” review following inspections conducted in March. The plant, which is under construction near the Lithuanian border, will feature two 1,200MW reactors, the first of which is scheduled for commissioning next year with the other following in 2020.
Safety is of primary concern when it comes to nuclear energy and so-called stress tests are conducted in order to assess plants’ compliance with accident, risk and safety regulations set by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as well as the European Commission.
The new nuclear power plant, which will be Belarus’s first, will help the country meet its domestic energy needs while it continues to diversify its energy resources so as to reduce its reliance on natural fossil fuel imports and decrease electric power production costs.
The plant will also boost Belarus’s capacity to export electric power to neighboring nations. “The project will further generate approximately 8,000 jobs during the peak construction period and 1,000 new permanent jobs, when it starts operations,” Power Technology, an industry publication, explains.
The two reactors are a pair of third-generation VVER-1200 type units, which are Russia’s version of the Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR). Similar reactors are already in use at the Leningradskaya NPP-2 in Russia and Hanhikivi-1 NPP in Finland. “Each of the two reactors at Belarusian NPP will have a service life of 50 years and a net efficiency of 33.9%. The energy consumption for their internal needs will not exceed 7.48% of the nominal power,” Power Technology notes.
The Ostrovets nuclear plant has come in for criticisms over the years with several watchdogs citing safety and environmental concerns. “Plenty of signals are coming from the Belarusian [plant] construction site that rules are being broken”Andrey Ozharovskiy, a Russian nuclear physicist and environmental activist, was quoted as saying last year.
Belarus’s Deputy Energy Minister Mikhail Mikhadyuk sought to allay such concerns. “All the necessary measures are being undertaken to secure the plant’s safety,” he said. “All the requirements as far as the construction, inspection, and assembling of the technological equipment are being met in full. The safety of the Belarusian nuclear power plant is our number one priority.”
ENSREG’s assessment may help to further alleviate safety concerns. With international scrutiny, the report is putting pressure on Belarus to fully implement further safety precautions in line with ENSREG recommendations as construction on the site advances.