The Belarusian nuclear station has one nuclear plant in operation and another nearing completions. Courtesy Belarusian NPP. The operator of the Belarusian nuclear power station has demonstrated a continued commitment to safety a year after the first unit was connected to the grid, but further operational safety improvement are needed ahead of the planned commercial operation of the second unit, an International Atomic Energy Agency team said.

The IAEA’s operational safety review team (Osart) on 29 October concluded a five-day follow up mission to the plant, carried out at the request of the government of Belarus, to evaluate progress made in addressing the findings of a pre-Osart mission conducted two years ago.

The Belarusian nuclear station, about 150 km northwest of the capital Minsk, consists of two 1,109 MW pressurised water reactors of the Russian VVER technology. One of them is operational while the other is under construction and scheduled for commercial operation in 2022.

Osart missions aim to review operational safety by assessing safety performance against IAEA safety standards. Teams of experts conduct the review and propose recommendations and suggestions for improvements. Pre-Osart reviews typically take place before first fuel loading.

Hot functional testing was completed at Unit 2 in October, according to the country’s energy ministry. Hot testing marks the last series of major tests ahead of initial fuel loading and is carried out to verify the operation of reactor components and systems at operating pressures and temperature.

The six-member IAEA team, which comprised experts from Armenia, Belgium, France, and Ukraine as well as two IAEA officials, said it observed significant improvements in plant programmes, processes, and performance of the personnel. The team said the operator, state-run Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant, needs to continue its efforts to complete the remaining actions for operational safety improvements in support of the planned commercial operation of the second unit and to ensure continued safe and reliable operation of the first unit.

The team said several findings from the 2019 review were fully addressed and resolved, including the implementation of an accident management programme, improvements to a programme for the handling of permanent and temporary modifications of plant structures, systems and components, and the implementation of radiological facilities, instrumentation and arrangements.

The team said further efforts are needed to fully implement some actions drawn up after the 2019 mission. Improvements are needed to the plant’s integrated management system and its fire prevention and protection programmes. The plant should continue improving oversight and control of the labelling, safe storage and use of chemicals.

The Belarusian nuclear power station project has been controversial. Three Baltic States and EU members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have expressed concerns, as has the EU itself, about safety at the facility. Russia’s state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, which is building the facility, has rejected claims the facility is unsafe, saying the design conforms to the highest international standards.

Date: Tuesday, 02 November 2021
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