Nuclear Power

17 Dec 2020

EU Inspection of Belarus Nuclear Plant This Week Canceled

17 Dec 2020  by Aliaksandr Kudrytski & Ewa Kruko   

A visit by European experts to review safety measures at a new nuclear power plant in Belarus this week has been canceled after local officials didn’t participate in an organizational meeting, the European Union energy commissioner said.

The cooling towers at the Astravets nuclear power plant in Belarus.  Source: Getty Images

Belarus’ regulator said it remains ready to host the mission at a later date.

The visit to the Astravets station, where the process of coming into service began last month, follows allegations by neighboring Lithuania of safety issues at the 2,400-megawatt plant. At a summit last week, EU leaders underlined the importance of ensuring the facility meets standards recognized by the bloc.

Rosatom Corp., the Russian state company building the facility, this week denied there are any safety issues at the plant, asserting that the ups and downs in power levels seen in recent weeks are a normal part of the process of bringing it into service. “We are not in a position to comment on the national regulator’s consultations with other watchdogs and international expert groups,” Rosatom’s press office said in response to query about the mission Wednesday.

‘Regrettable’ Delay

EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson called the delay “very regrettable.” In comments to a European Parliament committee Tuesday, she said, “The Belarusian regulator didn’t participate in the necessary preparatory technical meeting” on Monday to prepare the visit and “in these circumstances the physical visit to the Astravets site would have no value.” As a result, the team called off the visit.

“The mission continues to call on Belarus to act responsibly and cooperate so that the peer-review exercise can be completed safely and in full transparency,” she said. The EU Commission aims to reschedule the visit as soon as possible and complete the review before the station begins commercial operations, she said.

“It’s vital that the ENSREG can finalize their review, including accessing the site in order to deliver a meaningful and sound technical assessment, which is fundamental for the nuclear safety in the region,” she said, referring to the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group, the independent advisory body leading the mission.

Belarus’ regulator “remains committed to receive the visit and will provide everything necessary,” according to spokesman Oleg Sobolev, who declined to comment on Simson’s explanation for the delay. “Belarus is ready to show the experts the nuclear plant and to fulfill all voluntary obligations regarding it.”

The Dec. 16-18 visit to the plant was part of a mission that was to combine online consultations with the trip to the site. The mission was announced in October and is part of a peer review of Belarus’ plan of actions following stress tests of the plant.

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Related Reading: EU to Conduct Safety Review at Belarus Nuclear Plant This Month

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