The European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy has approved a draft resolution on the safety of the Belarus NPP initiated by Lithuania. It will be considered at the plenary session of the European Parliament on February 8-11, the Committee said in a press release on 28 January.
The draft expresses concern about the location of the Ostrovets nuclear power plant “at 50km from Vilnius (Lithuania) and at close proximity to other EU countries such as Poland, Latvia and Estonia”. It says construction and future operation “is a source of possible threat to the European Union and its Member States with regard to safety, health and protection of the environment”.
It deplores “the persistent lack of transparency and official information regarding recurrent emergency shutdowns of the reactor and equipment failure during the commissioning stage of the plant in 2020, including breakdown of four voltage transformers and malfunctioning of cooling systems, whereas there were eight known incidents during the construction stage of the plant, including two incidents related with the reactor pressure vessel”.
It expresses concern that the current regulatory authority, Gosatomnadzor, “is under constant political pressure and lacks sufficient independence both in form and in substance, therefore transparent and attentive peer review is also crucial during the operational phase of the plant”.
It “urges the Belarusian authorities to fully cooperate with the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) in the stress test process, including a formal review and urgent implementation of the Belarus’ National Action Plan”.
The resolution “deeply regrets the hasty commercial start of the plant in March 2021 and stresses that all ENSREG safety recommendations must be implemented before the nuclear power plant can start its commercial operation”.
It notes that, “despite the common agreement between the Baltic countries to cease commercial exchanges of electricity with Belarus, is it still possible for electricity from Belarus to enter the EU market via the Russian grid” and “supports the efforts to investigate possible measures preventing commercial electricity imports from third countries’ nuclear facilities that do not fulfil EU recognised safety levels, including the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets”.
It “invites the Commission to assess and propose measures to suspend electricity trade with Belarus in a manner that is compliant with the obligations under international trade, energy and nuclear law, in order to ensure that electricity produced in the Ostrovets plant does not enter the EU energy market while Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are still connected to the BRELL network”. It “stresses the strategic importance of accelerating the synchronisation of the Baltic electricity grid with the Continental European Network".
Committee members voted 66 in favour and two against the resolution, with seven abstentions. The Belarus nuclear power plant, with two generation 3+ VVER-1200 reactors is being built by Rosatom and is financed by a Russian state loan of $10 billion (to cover 90% of the total cost).
Trial operation of Belarus 1 began in December and earlier in January the unit was brought to 100% of its rated power and is now undergoing comprehensive testing of equipment and systems.
Currently, Gosatomnadzor and ENSREG are finalising plans for a visit to the nuclear power plant in February. The visit was originally planned for December but was postponed.
Photo: Belarus nuclear power plant (Credit: Rosatom)