On February 11, MEPs adopted a resolution on the Belarusian nuclear power plant in Astravets, demanding that its commercial launch be suspended. There were 642 votes to 29, with 21 abstentions.
The majority expressed concern about the Belarusian authorities’ the rush to start commercial operation of the plant in March 2021, Belsat reports.
The European Parliament criticises the hasty commissioning of the Astravets nuclear plant and the continued lack of transparency and official communication regarding the frequent emergency shutdowns of the reactor and equipment failure. Despite outstanding safety concerns, the plant started to generate electricity on 3 November 2020 without fully implementing recommendations made in the 2018 EU peer review and by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
The MEPS call on the European Commission to work closely with the Belarusian side to delay launching the plant until all EU stress test recommendations are fully implemented and all the necessary safety improvements are in place.
The Astravets NPP with two reactors of total capacity of 2,400 MW was built by the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) using a Russian loan, to be run on its own uranium fuel. Signed in 2011, the agreement provides the Belarusian government with up to $10 bn in state export loans for the construction of the nuclear power plant.
The launch of the plant was postponed from 2018. The project is being developed despite the protest of the public, a number of environmental organisations, some international organisations and Lithuania, whose border is several tens of kilometres from the reactors. The Lithuanian parliament even declared the station a ‘threat to national security’. In response to the production of the first kilowatt-hours in Astravets, Lithuania stopped trading in electricity with Belarus.
On 7 November 2020, Alyaksandr Lukashenka officially opened the facility. However, the day after his visit, the equipment at the BelNPP failed. During the tests at the first unit, ‘the need to replace some electrical measuring equipment’ was revealed, the Energy Ministry said. At the same time, according to the ministry, all technological systems kept ‘operating in the regular mode’.
It is expected that the commercial use of the first power unit will take place in early 2021. In accordance with the documents signed by Lukashenka, the first power unit is scheduled to be commissioned in 2021, the second – in H1 2022. In mid November, Rosatom official expressed readiness to build one more nuclear power plant in Belarus.