Start-up of the first nuclear unit in Belarus


Launch of Ostrovets 1 marks milestone for Rosatom and Belarus

Above: Ostrovets site

THE OPERATION STARTED AT OSTROVETS 1, the first nuclear power plant in Belarus.

Designed by Rosatom, the Ostrovets project uses the latest generation III + technology – the AES-2006 model of the VVER-1200 design. The Ostrovets plant marks the first time that this latest generation of VVER has been successfully completed outside of Russia, so it is a milestone in Rosatom’s global export ambitions.

When completed, the plant will consist of two VVER power units, each with a capacity of 1194 MW. The second unit is expected to be commissioned on schedule in 2022. The expected capacity factor of the plant when fully operational is 90-92%.

Ostrovets is also a historic moment for Belarus as a nation and represents a new chapter in the country’s energy history. As a new entrant in the nuclear energy market, safety was a key factor when choosing the design of this project. Belarusian specialists have examined proposals from nuclear companies around the world, including Westinghouse, Areva and Chinese companies. However, it is the project designed by Rosatom which, according to experts, responds most effectively to the needs of Belarus.

Rosatom’s design meets the highest international standards, including the post-Fukushima recommendations of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). With a core damage frequency (CDF) of just 7.7 x 10-7, or one event every 77 million years, reactors are among the safest in the world.

The Belarus plant has a wide range of active and passive security systems. The passive heat removal system of the steam generator, for example, is activated automatically if necessary and is able to remove heat from the reactor core in the absence of a power supply.

The design has dual feed island containment and a hydrogen recombination system. A core recuperator, designed to trap molten fuel beneath the reactor in the unlikely event of a severe accident, ensures that radioactive material is not released into the environment, even if the reactor core is damaged.

Site-specific design at Ostrovets follows careful analysis, bench testing and computer modeling to ensure that critical parts of the plant are able to withstand significant external shocks. The impact of plane crashes and extreme weather events were all factored into the design – especially heavy snowfall, given Belarus’ harsh winters.

Particular attention has been paid to seismic safety. Ostrovets is not a seismically active region, but earthquakes above 5.5 on the Richter scale are not unheard of. It was therefore essential to ensure that the plant would avoid the fate of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in the event of a major seismic event.

Belarusian seismologists have studied data from more than 1,200 earthquakes dating back to 1887, including a questionable 1908 earthquake in Gudogai. Although there is little evidence that the Gudogai earthquake occurred, experts used the event as the worst-case scenario for Ostrovets to help achieve better earthquake resistance in the final design.

The maximum ground acceleration (PGA) for Ostrovets is 0.13g, which is 30% more than the PGA benchmark of 0.1g recommended by the IAEA for new plants. The plant’s Category 1 structures have greater seismic resistance, with a PGA of 0.62 g. This represents some of the highest levels of earthquake resistance in Europe. Among the EU factories operating at significantly lower levels of seismic stability is the Krsko factory in Slovenia, which has a seismic margin of just 7%.

Since the start of the project, Belarus has worked closely with international nuclear safety oversight bodies and groups of independent experts to ensure that the plant meets the most stringent requirements. The use of international peer review services was one of the areas of good practice highlighted by the IAEA in its mission report to the plant.

Another area praised by the IAEA is “the effective coordination and systematic approach of Belarus for the development, review, testing, updating of contingency and contingency plans and Training”. The country’s rigorous approach to testing and emergency preparedness were also areas noted by the Group of European Nuclear Safety Regulators (Ensreg) when Belarus undertook voluntary stress tests of the central between 2016 and 2018. Ensreg’s peer review gave the tests an “overall positive” rating. and provided the Belarusian regulator with recommendations.

Belarusian authorities have included these recommendations in the country’s National Action Plan (NIA) and are already taking steps to achieve them in the coming years.

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