Artists impression of Belarus NPPA European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (Ensreg) peer review has concluded that the Belarusian nuclear plant under construction at Ostrovets the Lithuanian border complies with European Union (EU) risk and safety assessments, or “stress tests”. 

Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom is constructing two 1109MWe VVER-1200 reactor units at the site. Construction of unit 1 began in November 2013 and unit 2 in April 2014.  

The findings were published on 3 July.  Following a site investigation in March, the review gave “overall positive” assessment but made some recommendations for improvement.  The peer review team comprised 17 members, two representatives from the European Commission (EC) and three observers: one each from the International Atomic energy Agency (IAEA), Russia and Iran. After considering an earlier stress test report prepared by Belarus, the team praised the Belarusian authorities for complying with the review, even though Belarus had no obligation to do so because it is not an EU member state.   

Ensreg addressed three main areas: the site’s resilience to extreme natural events like earthquakes and flooding; the capacity of the plant to respond to electric power outages and loss of heat sink; and severe accident management. It found that the site is resistant to earthquakes, flooding and extreme weather, although the investigators warned that seismic data was not fully available and called on the regulator to make sure run-off water could not enter safety-related buildings. Ensreg also praised the heat removal safety systems of the plant, which are able to operate passively for a 24-hour-period even during blackouts. However, the report suggested that extra contingency measures like backup water pumps should be installed. The report positively assessed the advanced training centre on site, which has a dummy control room that can simulate most emergency situations, and the plant’s in-house fire brigade. The EC has asked Belarus to develop an action plan "to ensure timely implementation of all safety improvement measures in accordance with their safety significance".

Despite the positive Ensreg report,  Lithuania is continuing its criticism of the plant. Lithuania's prime minister Saulius Skvernelis said on 4 July that he will ask the EC to put pressure on Belarus to modify the NPP which he alleged is a threat to Lithuania’s safety and national security.  Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius said the Ensreg recommendations should be fully implemented, adding that what happens next will affect EU-Belarus relations.

Photo: Artists impression of Belarus NPP