An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts on March, 4 concluded a 12-day mission to Belarus to review its infrastructure development for a nuclear power programme. The Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) was carried out at the invitation of the Government of Belarus.
Belarus, seeking to diversify its energy production with a reliable low-carbon source, is building its first nuclear power plant (NPP) at the Ostrovets site, about 130 km north-west of the capital Minsk. The country has engaged with the Russian Federation to construct and commission two VVER-1200 pressurised water reactors at this site and expects the first unit to be connected to the grid this year.
The INIR mission reviewed the status of nuclear infrastructure development using the Phase 3 conditions of the IAEA’s Milestones Approach. The Ministry of Energy of Belarus hosted the mission.
The INIR team said Belarus is close to completing the required nuclear power infrastructure for starting the operation of its first NPP. The team made recommendations and suggestions aimed at assisting Belarus in making further progress in its readiness to commission and operate it.
“This mission marks an important step for Belarus in its preparations for the introduction of nuclear power,” said team leader Milko Kovachev, Head of the IAEA’s Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section. “We met well-prepared, motivated and competent professionals ready to openly discuss all infrastructure issues. The team saw a clear drive to meet the objectives of the programme and deliver benefits to the Belarusian people, such as supporting the country’s economic development.”
The team comprised one expert from Algeria and two experts from the United Kingdom, as well as seven IAEA staff. It reviewed the status of 19 nuclear infrastructure issues using the IAEA evaluation methodology for Phase 3 of the Milestones Approach. It was the second INIR mission to Belarus, who hosted a mission covering Phases 1 and 2 in 2012.
Prior to the latest mission, Belarus prepared a Self-Evaluation Report covering all infrastructure issues and submitted the report and supporting documents to the IAEA.
The team highlighted areas where further actions would benefit Belarus, including the need to improve institutional arrangements and the legal and regulatory framework to ensure a stable and predictable environment for the programme; and to finalize the remaining arrangements needed for sustainable operation of the nuclear power plant.
The team also identified good practices that would benefit other countries developing nuclear power in the areas of programme and project coordination, the use of independent peer reviews, cooperation with regulators from other countries, engagement with international stakeholders and emergency preparedness.
Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy attended the Mission’s closing meeting. “Developing the infrastructure required for a nuclear power programme requires significant financial and human resources, and long lead times for preparation and the construction activities,” he said. “Belarus has made commendable progress since the decision to launch a nuclear power programme 10 years ago.”
“Hosting the INIR mission, Belarus demonstrated its transparency and genuine interest to receive an objective professional assessment of the readiness of its nuclear power infrastructure for the commissioning of the country’s first nuclear power plant,” said Mikhail Mikhadyuk, Deputy Minister of Energy of the Republic of Belarus. ”The recommendations and suggestions we received will be an important guidance for our continuous efforts aimed at ensuring the highest level of safety and reliability of the Belarusian NPP.”
About INIR Missions:
Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) missions are based on the IAEA Milestones Approach, with its 19 Infrastructure Issues, three phases (consider, prepare, construct) and three milestones (decide, contract, commission and operate). INIR missions enable IAEA Member State representatives to have in-depth discussions with international experts about experiences and best practices in different countries. In developing its recommendations, the INIR team takes into account the comments made by the relevant national organizations. Implementation of any of the team’s recommendations and suggestions is at the discretion of the Member State requesting the mission. The results of the INIR mission are expected to help the Member State to develop an action plan to fill any gaps, which in turn will help the development of the national nuclear infrastructure. The IAEA publishes the INIR mission report on its website 90 days after its delivery to the Member State, unless the State requests in writing that the IAEA not do so.