Belarusian nuclear power plant

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Belarusian nuclear power plant
Будаўніцтва Астравецкай АЭС 003.jpg
The plant under construction in August 2016
LocationAstravyets District, Grodno Region
Coordinates54°45′40″N 26°5′21″E / 54.76111°N 26.08917°E / 54.76111; 26.08917Coordinates: 54°45′40″N 26°5′21″E / 54.76111°N 26.08917°E / 54.76111; 26.08917
StatusUnder construction
Construction beganJuly 2011 (2011-07)[1]
Commission dateQ1 2020 (planned)
Construction costUS$10 billion
Nuclear power station
Reactor typeVVER-1200
Reactor supplierAtomstroyexport
Cooling towers2
Thermal capacity2 × 3,200 MWt
Power generation
Units under const.2 × 1,194 MW (gross)
Nameplate capacity2,218 MW
External links
Websitebelarusian nuclear power plant
CommonsRelated media on Commons

The Belarusian nuclear power plant is a multi-reactor nuclear power plant project in Belarus. Initial plans were announced in the 1980s, but were suspended after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which hit Belarus in a severe manner (e.g. many Thyroid-cancers).[2] The drive for the current project was fueled by the Russia-Belarus energy dispute in 2007.[3] The project foresees construction of two nuclear reactors between 2016 and 2020, and probably two more reactors by 2025.[4] The reactors would be supplied by Atomstroyexport and the plant would be located in the Astravyets District, Grodno Region.[5][6][7]


In the 1980s there were plans to build a nuclear heating and power plant in Rudensk, some 50 kilometres (31 mi) south of the vicinity of Minsk. Following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, these plans were halted.[2] The plant was to comprise two VVER-1000 nuclear reactors, designed to provide both electricity and heat for the city of Minsk. The reactors would each have had a power rating of 900 MW net and 940 MW gross capacity.[8][9]

The nuclear initiative was revitalized after Belarus gained independence from the Soviet Union. On 22 December 1992, Belarus announced its intention to build nuclear power plants and started a program to examine 15 possible sites. It was foreseen that the first unit of 500-600 MW would be commissioned by 2005, and additional units with a combined capacity of 1,000 MW by 2005 and 2010. However, no decision concerning site or reactor type was made.[2] In 1999, the Government of Belarus adopted a nuclear moratorium, but preparations for the construction of a nuclear power plant were carried on.[10]

On 2 May 2002, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko stated that Belarus would not construct a nuclear power plant on its territory, but was interested in purchasing nuclear power from Russia, and in the possibility of constructing a Belarus-owned reactor at the Smolensk nuclear power plant in Russia.[11] However, in mid 2006, the Government of Belarus approved a plan for the construction of an initial 2000 MWe nuclear power plant in the Mahilyow Voblast using pressurized water reactors technology.[4]

After the Russia-Belarus energy dispute in 2007, Lukashenko re-declared that to ensure national energy security, Belarus needed to build its own nuclear power plant.[3] The Belarusian Security Council made the decision to construct a nuclear power plant on 15 January 2008.[12] According to the presidential decree signed in January 2008, the first reactor of the nuclear power plant should be operational by 2016, and the second one by 2018.[13][14] The Nuclear Power Act, covering the design and construction of nuclear facilities, the security, safety, and physical protection of such facilities, and their regulation (and also prohibiting the production of nuclear weapons and other nuclear explosives), was adopted by the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus on 25 June 2008.[15]

On 27 February 2008, Iran announced that it is ready to assist Belarus with the construction and operation of a nuclear power plant in areas such as funding, personnel training, the sharing of experience, the installation of equipment, and training in operating such equipment.[16]

On 1 July 2009, a Ukrainian NGO sent a complaint to the Implementation Committee of the Espoo Convention alleging numerous violations of the Espoo Convention. In particular, the complaint argues that Belarus is in violation of the requirements of the Convention by pre-defining two key alternatives of the nuclear power plant construction – location and no-action alternative, as well as by not establishing an environmental impact assessment procedure that permits public participation.[17] In December 2009 European ECO Forum Legal Focal Points submitted a complaint to the Compliance Committee of the Aarhus Convention challenging the legality of NPP construction due to violation of public participation rights provided by the Aarhus Convention.[18]

On 22 January 2011 the news was released that the contract for the Belarusian NPP will be signed in the first quarter of 2011 with Rosatom.[19]

On June 2012 the construction of the foundation pit for the nuclear power plant started near the small village of Shulniki in Astravets District, Hrodna Region, some 16 km (10 mi) from the Lithuanian border.[20]

Both in March and April 2013 journalists were not permitted to visit the construction site. In March 2013 Radio Svaboda's correspondent Mikhail Karnevich received official permission to make a report about the construction of the power plant. But when he came to Astravets, he found out that he would not be able to visit the construction site.[21] In April 2013 journalists Ales Barazenka and Nastaśsia Jaūmien were detained in Astravets where they were filming the nuclear power plant construction and were asked an "intelligible explanation to the fact of filming the construction works".[22]

The first nuclear concrete for Unit 1 was poured on 6 November 2013.[23] The construction of the second unit began 8 months later. Construction of each unit is expected to take about five years.[24]

In November 2015, Lithuania informed that there is no possibility to reserve power of the Kruonis Pumped Storage Plant, aside from emergency case, for the Belarusian nuclear power plant.[25]

On February 2016, the 330-tonne, 13-meter high, 4.5 meters diameter, reactor vessel (which was the first reactor produced by Atommash after a 29-year hiatus) was delivered to the site.[26] According to press reports, it took Atommash 840 days (2 years and 4 months) to build the reactor; it was shipped from the plant on October 14, 2015. After being transported by barge over the Tsimlyansk Reservoir, the Volga-Don Canal, the Volga–Baltic Waterway, and the Volkhov River to Novgorod, the reactor was then shipped by a special rail car to the Astravyets railway station near the plant.[27]

On December 2019, the first unit started hot trials, checking the reactor unit under hot conditions, but with dummy fuel rods placed in the reactor.[28]


The location of the construction site was chosen on 20 December 2008.[29] The nuclear power plant is being built some 18 km away[30] from the town of Astravets in Hrodna Voblast, 45 kilometres (28 mi) from Vilnius, Lithuania.[7][31] Alternative sites were Chyrvonaya Palyana near Bykhaw in Mahilyow Voblast,[32] and Kukshynava between Horki and Shkloŭ in Mahilyow Voblast.[33]

Technical features[edit]

Russian Atomstroyexport is the contractor to build the nuclear power plant. Atomstroyexport has also supplied the III generation VVER-1200 type reactors (AES-2006 model).[5][6][34] The first reactor is scheduled for commissioning in December 2019, with the second one to go online in July 2020.[35] The first two reactors will have the combined capacity of around 2400 MW. It is possible that two additional reactors will be built by 2025.[4]

The nuclear power plant is expected to cost up to US$11 billion.[36] In addition, there are investments to upgrade the national power grid for power transmission from the nuclear power plant,[37] and the construction of an urban settlement for the power plant's workers.


On 12 November 2007, a decree defining the organizations responsible for preparing the construction of the nuclear power plant was signed. In accordance with the decree, a Directorate for the Construction of a Nuclear Power Plant was established under the Ministry of Energy. This directorate oversees the preparation, design and exploration works. The Nuclear and Radiation Safety Department, part of the Emergencies Ministry, is acting as the state nuclear regulator and licensing authority.[38]

Scientific support for the project is provided by the United Power & Nuclear Research Institute Sosny of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. The state-owned power engineering industry research and design institute Belnipienergoprom is the general designer of the plant and operates as the project management company, negotiating and signing contracts with suppliers, carrying out feasibility studies and preparing tender documents.[38] Yelena Mironova is the Head of the project management service.


In June 2007, Russia offered a US$2 billion credit line for the purchasing of equipment from Russia's Power Machines Company.[4][39] In January 2009, it was decided that the nuclear power plant will be built by Atomstroyexpoert and the Russian loan was agreed in February 2009.[5][40] Half the loan was at a fixed 5.23% interest rate and the other half at the six-month Libor dollar rate plus 1.83%. Repayment of the $10 billion loan would start no later than April 2021.[41]

In 2020 Belarus requested an extension of the repayment period from 25 to 35 years.[41]


The nuclear power plant plans have raised several concerns. Civil society groups have campaigned and collected signatures against the construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus.[42][43] Young members of the Belarusian People's Front have campaigned against possible Russian involvement in the construction of the plant and urged the Belarusian government to award the contract to build the nuclear power plant to a company based in a country other than Russia.[44] A group of Belarusian scientists founded a movement for a nuclear-free Belarus, claiming that the Belarusian government started preparations for the construction of the nuclear power plant before a moratorium adopted in 1999 was expired. The moratorium expired on 14 January 2009.[10]

Unit Type Capacity Construction start Operation start Notes
Belarusian 1 AES-2006 1194 MW 8 November 2013 November 2019 [45][46]
Belarusian 2 AES-2006 1194 MW 27 April 2014 July 2020 [24]

Lithuania is a critic of the power plant and intends to boycott it.[47]

On 7 February 2019, the Meeting of the Parties to the Espoo-Convention decided that Belarus had violated the Convention in choosing a construction site for its nuclear power plant. Reviewing violations by Belarus has attracted the international community's attention.[48]


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