Unit 1 of the Belarus nuclear plant is preparing for start-up, Belarus Deputy Minister of Energy Mikhail Mikhadyuk said on 12 February.
Pre-launch activities are underway and fuel simulators have been loaded into the reactor vessel.
Hot testing, which began in December, is expected to be completed before the end of February.
Thorough checking of the equipment will then follow in preparation for physical start-up, he added.
Recruitment and training of personnel have already been completed and Belarus 2 is 70% complete.
Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom is building two VVER-1200 Russian pressurised water reactor units at Ostrovets, near the border with Lithuania.
Construction of Ostrovets 1 began in November 2013 and of Ostrovets 2 in April 2014.
The general contractor from the Ostravets project is Atomstroyexport (part of Rosatom).
Meanwhile, Russia’s Ministry of Finance on 11 February rejected a request to extend the repayment period of the loan agreed for construction of the nuclear plant.
Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak said consultations are ongoing but added that lengthening the period of use of credit funds and reducing the interest rate “does not correspond to financial theory” and an alternative compromise needed to be found.
Under the terms of the loan agreement with Russia, Belarus should begin to repay the $10bn loan no later than 1 April 2021.
The current loan rate for Belarus is a fixed 5.23% a year for half of the selected funds and “six-month LIBOR in dollars (now 1.72%) plus 1.83% per annum” for the other half.
Belarus has also proposed increasing the repayment period from 25 years (counting from the date of opening a credit line in 2011) to 35 years.
Photo: The Belarus nuclear power plant