Russia on 31 October began shipping the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) for unit 2 of the Belarus NPP under construction in Ostrovets in the Grodno region. The 330t equipment for the VVER-1200 reactor unit was made by Atommash, part of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom's mechanical engineering subsidiary AEM-Technology. Acording to Andrey Nikipelov, general director of Rosatom’s engineering holding Atomenergomash, said transportation of the RPV will initially be by truck to the river port in Volgodonsk, then by river to Novovoronezh, and finally it will be taken by rail to the Ostrovets construction site.

Rosatom said it takes 36 months to make a VVER-1200 RPV which is a vertical cylinder with an elliptical base. The reactor core and the internal components are located inside and the reactor has a hermetically sealed lid. AEM-Technology said in May that it had completed assembly of the reactor vessel for Belarus NPP unit 2.

In March, AEM-Technology announced it had completed assembly of the internals for unit 1 of the plant. The reactor vessel itself was shipped there in October last year but suffered an accident in August during trial installation and has been returned to Russia, which is replacing it with a similar RPV shell originally manufactured for Russia’s Leningrad II NPP. However, the delay will shift the date for operation of Belarus-1 by 10-12 months to 2019.  Unit 2 is scheduled for operation in 2020.

Meanwhile, earlier in October, a 21-member International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team carried out an Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission between 2-14 October to assess the regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety in Belarus. This was the first IRRS mission to Belarus. The team said continued government backing and resources are needed to further build the Belarusian nuclear safety regulator's technical capabilities ahead of the start up of the Belarus NPP. The Belarus Ministry for Emergency Situations and its Department for Nuclear and Radiation Safety (Gosatomnadzor) are responsible for nuclear and radiation safety regulation.

The IRRS team concluded Belarus has a regulatory framework for safety in place and found two good practices: the use of "innovative tools and approaches to manage Gosatomnadzor's growth and build a healthy organizational culture"; and arrangements to ensure collaboration and information exchange between ministries, the regulators, operator and main contractors during NPP construction and commissioning.

The team also made 25 recommendations and 20 suggestions for improvement. These included developing national policy and strategy for safety and establishing a strategy for radioactive waste management for facilities and activities other than nuclear power plants. It also recommended Belarus ensures consistency of its regulations and continues to develop or revise them as necessary to meet IAEA safety standards.

Team leader Petteri Tiippana, director general of Finland's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (Stuk), said: "Belarus faces the challenge to regulate the safe operation of its first nuclear power plant. Numerous measures are under way to further strengthen the regulatory body's capabilities. It is essential that the government continues to support these important activities." The

Belarus minister for emergency situations Vladimir Vaschenko said, "The findings are in line with the results of our self-assessment. We have a common understanding of IAEA safety standards and how to achieve them. The outcome of the IRRS mission will help Belarus further strengthen its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety."