Belarus moves ahead despite opposition from neighbours

2 January 2018

Russian fuel company TVEL, the nuclear fuel manufacturing subsidiary of state nuclear corporation Rosatom, on 29 December signed a contract with State Enterprise Belorussian NPP for the supply of fuel assemblies for two units being built by Rosatom at Ostrovets, near the border with Lithuania.

Belarus 1&2 are Generation III+ 1109MWe VVER-1200 reactors. Construction of unit 1 began in November 2013 and unit 2 in April 2014. "As a contribution to Rosatom's integrated offer, TVEL is committed to supplying nuclear fuel to Russian-built NPPs abroad for their entire operating lifetime on favourable commercial terms," TVEL President Natalia Nikipelova, said.

Earlier in December, Russian the 330-tonne reactor pressure vessel (RPV) was installed at unit 2, according to Russian general contractor Atomstroyexport. The RPV was manufactured near Volgodonsk, southwest Russia, by Russian equipment manufacturer Atomenergomash.

Meanwhile, work is continuing to construct the transmission system for the nuclear plant, which should be completed by the end of 2018, according to Yevgeny Voronov, Director General of the national electrical company Belenergo.  “We are ahead of schedule by about one year,” he said. By the end of 2017, seventeen of 23 startup facilities had been commissioned with another six to be commissioned in 2018. The project involves building new 330kV overhead power lines over  1032.5km and reconstructing 672.4km of existing 110-330kV power lines. Four power substations have to be reconstructed and the new substation needs to be built.

Belarusian Energy Minister Vladimir Potupchik told TV channel Belarus One on 24 December that Belarus is ready to export electricity from the nuclear plant to Poland, Ukraine. He believes that after the plant is commissioned, economic efficiency makes it profitable for Lithuania to buy electricity at market prices. Belarus also intends to sell electricity on the common electricity market of the Eurasian Economic Union, he said. “The nuclear power plant will allow us to save billions of m3 of natural gas now spent on generating electricity….We will save virtually half of the current natural gas volume by using the nuclear power plant to generate electricity,” he added.

However, Lithuania is continuing its opposition to the reactors.  Lithuania is seeking regional action to tax or block all electricity imports from Belarus, Reuters reported on 14 December. Lithuania sees the plant as a threat not only to its safety but also national security, despite assurances from Belarus and Russia about the inherent safety of the plant.  Despite relying on imports for 77% of its electricity since closing down its Soviet-built Ignalina nuclear plant in 2009, Lithuania plans to cut off high-power cables linking it with Ostravets. Earlier this year Lithuania passed laws prohibiting the purchase of Belarus energy after Ostrovets 1&2 begin operation. Data from November showed Lithuania relied on Russia and Belarus for 31% of its electricity imports. Lithuania has so far failed to persuade its neighbours to follow its example, although they have agreed to tax imports, Lithuania’s energy minister Zygimantas Vaiciunas said.


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