Agency has called for improvements to legal and regulatory framework The Belarus nuclear power station has two plants approaching commercial operation. Courtesy Rosatom. The government of Belarus has approved plans to implement recommendations and proposals from an International Atomic Energy Agency mission to the Belarusian nuclear power station last year.

The IAEA’s Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission took place over 12 days in February and March 2020.

It concluded that Belarus was close to completing the required nuclear power infrastructure for beginning operation of its first nuclear power plant, but needed to improve the legal and regulatory framework to ensure a stable and predictable environment for the programme.

The mission said Belarus needed to improve “institutional arrangements” and finalise remaining arrangements needed for the sustainable operation of the facility.

It also identified good practices including the use of independent peer reviews, cooperation with regulators from other countries, engagement with international stakeholders and emergency preparedness.

The Belarus government said the recommendations are aimed at “strengthening the legal framework in the field of nuclear energy, improving the integrated management system of the operating organisation and the regulatory body, and developing a concept for ensuring maintenance of the Belarus nuclear power plant”.

It said some of the recommendations may have already been completed.

Belarus, seeking to diversify its energy production with a reliable low-carbon source, is building its first nuclear power station at the Ostrovets site, about 130 km northwest of the capital Minsk near the border with Lithuania. Russia is constructing and commissioning two VVER-1200 pressurised water reactors at the site.

Separately, Belarus’ nuclear regulator Gosatomnadzor and the European Nuclear Safety Regulatory Group (Ensreg), said recently they are finalising plans for a visit to the Belarusian nuclear station this month, state news agency Belta reported.

The visit, unrelated to the IAEA’s INIR mission, is for Ensreg experts to review Belarus’ action plan on the results of stress tests on the new facility.

The visit was originally planned for December 2020, but was postponed without a reason being made public. The energy ministry told Belta at the time that “all the necessary conditions” were in place for the visit.

The EU energy commissioner has said EU officials were also due to take part in the visit. Kadri Simson said: “The peer review… should be completed as quickly as possible and throughout the process leading to the commissioning of the plant the highest safety standards must be ensured.”

The plans for a visit come soon after the European Parliament committee backed a resolution (Lithuanian only) regretting the “hasty launch” of the Belarusian nuclear power station and calling for the project to be suspended until all EU safety recommendations have been implemented.

The committee on industry, research and energy expressed its concern about the start of commercial activities at the Belarusian station, despite the “poor quality assurance and control, doubts about the implementation of the recommendations of the EU and other international organisations and the lack of transparency”.

The committee called on the European Commission to work closely with Belarus to stop the start of commercial activities at the station – the country’s first commercial nuclear facility – until “all EU stress test recommendations have been fully implemented and all necessary safety improvements have been made and neighbouring countries have been properly informed”.

In January Belarusian-1 was brought to 100% of its rated power and is now undergoing comprehensive testing of equipment and systems.

Date: Saturday, 06 February 2021
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