Unit 2 of the Belarus NPP has been brought to minimum controllable power level as part of the final stage of its physical start, according to the Belarus Ministry of Energy. A neutron flux was registered for the first time and a controlled self-sustained nuclear reactor began. The unit has been is set to a minimum controlled power level of 1% enabling the final tests of physical start-up stage to proceed. To confirm compliance with the design and clarify the rated neutron and physical characteristics of the reactor’s first fuel loading, core measurements will be taken. Reliability of protection, interlocking and the entire nuclear physical control and nuclear safety systems will also be checked.

The results of these tests will be submitted to Belarus authorities to obtain a permit for power start-up, after which a gradual increase of the power level will begin. Simultaneously specialists will continue with the planned preparation for the subsequent stages of the start-up and trial operation. Once the unit achieves a power level of 40% trial grid connection will take place.

Minister of Energy Viktor Karankevich said earlier that unit 2 would be put into commercial operation in October 2023 and that the first trial inclusion of the unit 2 in the network is planned for April. Commercial operation of unit 2 has been delayed by several months. It was originally planned for early 2023. However, officials said this was to ensure all safety requirements were met.

The Belarus NPP comprises two Russian supplied VVER-1200 power units. The plant was issued a permit for pilot industrial operation of unit 1 in December 2020 and was connected to the grid in March 2021 and began commercial operation in June. It was the first VVER-1200 unit to begin operation outside of Russia. Fuel loading was completed at unit 2 in December 2021.

Image: Belarus nuclear power plant (courtesy of Rosatom)