Belarus announced to pursue further common projects with Russia in the field of nuclear energy. Representatives of the two countries praised the progress of the Ostrovets nuclear plant project and Deputy Energy Minister Mikhail Mikhadyuk said that they have received a large package of proposals from Russian partners to expand the scope of nuclear cooperation including proposals for the joint implementation of projects abroad.
The most well-known – and most controversial – joint project of the two countries is the Ostrovets nuclear plant located 50 kilometres from Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital and in close proximity to other EU countries such as Poland, Latvia and Estonia.
The 2.4 gigawatts (GW) facility will consist of two Russian supplied VVER-1200 power units. The plant was issued a permit for pilot industrial operation of unit 1 in December and it was connected to the grid earlier in March. It is expected that unit 1 will be put into commercial operation in 2021 and unit 2 in 2022.
Belarusian Energy Minister Viktor Karankevich said this week that unit 2 of the Belarus NPP is 80 per cent complete. As for unit 1, since its inclusion in the unified energy system, it has produced 1.8 TWh of electricity and it is currently undergoing a pilot operation.
According to Belarus, the nuclear power plant will contribute to energy security and reduce dependence on hydrocarbons replacing about 4.5 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas a year. The cost of the two units, largely funded by a loan from Russia, has been reported as 9.3 billion euros.
However, when fuel loading began earlier in August, Lithuania claimed that Belarus was being negligent and irresponsible in its handling of security issues and was posing a threat to both its own security and that of its neighbouring countries.
Lithuania and the Baltic Staes have jointly adopted a decision to cease commercial exchanges of electricity with Belarus once the Ostrovets plant started operating. In February the European Parliament called to suspend the launch of the power plant until safety concerns are addressed. The European Commission also flagged that it’s considering whether to restrict power imports from nuclear plants outside the EU if they don’t comply with the bloc’s safety standards.
Experts of the European Commission and the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) visited Astravets In February as part of a second review, the results of which are due before the plant’s full commercial launch.
Belarusian Deputy Energy Minister Mikhail Mikhadyuk told reporters that the Ministry has recently received new offers from Russian partners to strengthen cooperation in the field of nuclear energy including science and education. He also mentioned that the proposals included the implementation of projects abroad without going into specifics. The Minister noted that they will soon review and evaluate these proposals.