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The plenary meeting of the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) on 24 November approved the “EU Peer Review Report Implementation of Belarusian Stress Test National Action Plan September 2021”.

The 88-page report said the Belarusian NPP has implemented 17 out of 22 ENSREG recommendations. The meeting discussed topical issues of nuclear safety regulation, including the ENSREG report on the partner review of the National Action Plan following the results of the stress tests of the Belarusian NPP. The ENSREG report noted that the National Action Plan (NAP) addressed all the recommendations made by ENSREG in 2018, which were formulated as a result of a peer review of the National Report on Stress Tests of the Belarusian NPP.  

All the actions taken by regulator Gosatomnadzor (GAN) and the operating company of the Belarus Nuclear Power Plant (BelNPP) reflected the essence of the recommendations ENSREG gave in 2018.

Of those 22 recommendations, the report said report 17 have been fully implemented and can be considered fulfilled. Actions relating to the other  five recommendations “are being implemented meeting the intent of the recommendations”. GAN and BelNPP’s operator implemented some actions faster than announced in the original plan.

ENSREG experts believe that serious progress has been achieved in fulfilling the national action plan. The openness and transparency of the Belarusian side were also mentioned, including the publication of the national action plan on Gosatomnadzor's website and regular coverage of various stages of the peer review by the regulatory authority.

Gosatomnadzor Head Olga Lugovskaya thanked the ENSREG team led by Petteri Tiippana for constructive and fruitful cooperation and collaboration at all stages of the peer review. She noted that the NAP was expanded in November 2021 taking into account results of realisation of the plan's actions in 2019-2021 and the results of interaction with ENSREG experts during a peer review of 2020-2021. She gave assurances that all the actions specified by the action plan will be fulfilled on time and under GAN’s oversight.

 ENSREG was established in 2007 by the European Commission.The group includes senior officials from national regulatory authorities on nuclear safety, radioactive waste safety, and radiation protection as well as individuals from European Union (EU) countries with competences in these fields. Belarus represented by GAN was invited by ENSREG to become an observer in 2018. Stress tests of the BelNPP were carried out in 2016-2018 according to EU procedure and included three stages: self-evaluation of the plant, a national evaluation, and a peer review by  ENSREG. Gosatomnadzor and parties concerned put together the relevant action plan in 2019.

ENSREG said the Covid-19 pandemic had prevented the peer review from being carried out as planned, with a single full scope fact-finding mission to Belarus. As a result, most meetings were conducted online and the peer review was divided into two phases each including a mission to the BelNPP. The first phase focused on recommendations related to high priority issues, in February before BelNPP started commercial operations. The second phase, addressing all recommendations, was finalised after the full factfinding mission to BelNPP in August/September. 

ENSREG said: “GAN and BelNPP have expedited the implementation of several actions compared with the original schedule and are encouraged to continue likewise with the remaining actions (qualification of fire extinguishing system and fire brigade building, extending seismic monitoring network and providing access to information, and review and enforcement of the robustness of the volumetric protection of relevant buildings).” In conclusion, ENSREG considers that the implementation of the NAP “has progressed well”.

With regard to Natural Hazards particular attention has been paid to the seismic safety at the site, ENREG noted. The plant has been equipped with seismic monitoring system which automatically shuts down the reactor in case ground motion exceeds 0.06g. The design basis earthquake “has been defined and evaluated in line with international expectations and considered appropriate for the BelNPP”.  For seismic events beyond the design basis earthquake, the results of the analyses “demonstrated compliance with the risk related numerical criteria specified in the Belarusian regulatory requirements and meet international expectations for new NPPs.” 

ENSREG observed that parts of the fire extinguishing systems in buildings housing active safety systems are not qualified to sustain a design basis earthquake.  However, the report notes that a fire in the building housing safety systems “does not directly endanger reactor safety because heat removal from the reactor can be achieved by the passive heat removal systems”. Nevertheless, ENSREG encourages BelNPP to consider enhancing safety of the plant by qualifying the fire extinguishing system protecting active safety systems to seismic category 1 and retrofitting the housing of the on-site fire brigade. 

With regard to loss of safety systems “further safety improvements have been implemented at the BelNPP although the design of the plant benefits from having both active and passive safety systems for cooling of the reactor core and the containment”. 

With regard to severe accident management, “actions have been taken to ensure and enhance BelNPP’s capabilities to prevent and mitigate severe accidents, to demonstrate practical elimination of early or large radioactive releases and limitation of radiological impacts of severe accidents to the plant vicinity, in accordance with the current IAEA safety standards and WENRA recommendations”.

ENSREG said that, while reviewing the NAP, it had identified some areas where further safety enhancement could be achieved. “In the spirit of continuous safety improvement, openness and transparency, ENSREG encouraged Belarus to incorporate these measures in the updated NAP and for GAN to publish regular reports on the NAP’s status. “Significant progress” has been made in implementation of the NAP, but “work on ensuring and enhancing safety is a continuous process”. ENSREG advised that new information, experience and knowledge will arise both from domestic and international operating experience, safety research, development of science and technology. Information and experience should be systematically followed, collected, analysed and used. “BelNPP and GAN are encouraged to engage with other NPPs and regulatory bodies internationally and continue utilising international peer review services and other support programmes.”

Photo: Belarus nuclear power plant (photo credit; Rosatom)

Date: Tuesday, 30 November 2021
Original article: neimagazine.com/news/newsensreg-sees-significant-progress-at-belarus-nuclear-plant--9284630