Photo: Belarus nuclear power plant achieved first criticality on 11 October (Credit: Rosatom)The power level of unit 1 at Belarusian nuclear power plant was raised up to 400MW on 7 November.

The first current into the unified energy system of the republic was delivered by the generation III + Russian supplied VVER-1200 reactor on 3 November, after which a gradual increase in the reactor power to 50% began, with the implementation of planned measurements and tests. The next stage — pilot production, with an increase in capacity up to 100% — will begin in late November or early December.

“This week Belarus became a full-fledged member of the world nuclear club – the country's first and most modern power unit began producing electricity. For Rosatom, this is also the first project equipped with the latest generation of VVER-1200 reactors successfully implemented outside Russia,” said Rosatom director general Alexei Likhachev. He noted that similar projects are being implemented in Finland, Hungary, Turkey, Bangladesh and China.

Official commissioning of Belarussian 1 is scheduled for the first quarter of 2021.

Russia’s Atomenergomash (Rosatom’s Engineering Division) supplied the key equipment of the nuclear island and the fuel assemblies were manufactured by Rosatom’s fuel division, TVEL, at the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrate Plant. The fuel enrichment level varies from 1.3% to 4.4%.

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko formally opening the unit, said it "will serve as an impetus for attracting the most advanced technologies to the country. and innovative directions in science and education”. The Belarussian nuclear plant continues to face opposition from neighbouring Lithuania.

On 4 November, Lithuanian transmission system operator Litgrid ceased all power trading with Belarus, following the start up of the NPP. "Our systems recorded the production of electricity at the NPP in Ostrovets. In response to this, a zero pass has been established for the commercial flow of electricity from Belarus," Litgrid noted.

Lithuanian Energy Minister Zygimantas Vaiciunas said “Ostravets is a geopolitical project, but the ban is meant to reduce motivation for it, to keep it from becoming profitable.” The decision also bans Baltics power trade with mainland Russia, which exports its power to Lithuania via Belarus. Power imported from Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave, which borders Lithuania and Poland, is not affected. “At the moment, the law keeps Belarus from getting money from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia,” Vaiciunas added.

Russian electricity import and export company InterRAO said the decision by Lithuania “was no surprise” and it would continue supplying Russian electricity to the Baltic states market in the open commercial section with Latvia, it said in a statement. Latvian transmission system operator Augstspriegumu Tikls (AST) said in a note to NordPool power market that it planned to restart trade with Russia on 5 November. However, the Latvian government  voted to ban sales of Belarus energy within the country, and said it would require origin certificates for any Russian power imports, to ensure their separation from Belarus power.

Lithuania alleges that the Belarus nuclear power plant violates international requirements in the field of nuclear energy. Its parliament  declared the station a threat to national security, and legally prohibited the purchase and export of its electricity through its power grids.

Updated: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Belarus 1 had reached design capacity. The reactor power was increased to 400MW on 7 November.

Photo: Belarus nuclear power plant achieved first criticality on 11 October (Credit: Rosatom)