Fuel loading has begun at unit 1 of the Belarus NPP, Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom said on 7 August. This followed the issuing of a permit by the Department of Nuclear and Radiation Safety of the Belarus Ministry for Emergency Situations (Gosatomnadzor). A total of 163 assemblies will be loaded before the end of August, after which the reactor will reach the minimum controllable power level (1% of total capacity) and relevant tests will be performed. After reliability and safety of the unit at its design parameters are verified, the next stage of the power start-up will begin and the reactor will be connected to the grid, Rosatom said.
“The Republic of Belarus has become the owner of a power unit built according to the latest Gen 3+ technologies. This technology has been proved and tested through the operation of similar power units in Russia,” said Rosatom Director General General Alexey Likhachev. “They meet all the post-Fukushima safety requirements, and all the IAEA missions have recognised their reliability. It is very important for us that we have built the first VVER-1200 unit abroad in the Republic of Belarus, a good neighbour.”
The unit satisfies meets all International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safety requirements and Belarus regularly cooperates with IAEA experts as well as ineracting representatives of the European Commission and the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG). Overall, in 2012-2020, seven key IAEA missions, which are recommended for countries building their first nuclear power plants, were carried out.
Belarus 1 is the first Russian-designed VVER-1200 unit to built abroad. Currently, three units are operating in Russia: two at the Novovoronezh NPP and one at the Leningrad NPP, with a fourth nearing commissioning at Leningrad. Andrey Petrov, Director General of Russian nuclear utility Rosenergoatom and First Vice-President for NPP construction of the ASE Group said the VVER-1200 has a number of advantages compared with the previous generation VVER-1000 reactor that significantly increase its economic performance and safety.
“The main feature of the VVER-1200 is a unique combination of active and passive safety systems that make the NPP fully resistant to external and internal influences. For example, all power units are equipped with a core catcher, a device provided to catch the molten core material of a nuclear reactor, as well as other passive safety systems capable of operating in complete power outage and without operators,” he said. “In addition, the capacity of the power unit has increased by 20%, the number of maintenance personnel has been significantly reduced, and the design life of the main equipment has been doubled from 30 to 60 years with the possibility of extending it for another 20 years.”
Further VVER-1200 units are either planned or under construction in Bangladesh, Egypt, Finland, Hungary and Turkey. Atomenergomash JSC is a supplier of all the key equipment of the nuclear island for the Belarusian plant. The fuel was produced at the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant and its enrichment level varies between 1.3% and 4.4%.