Lithuania calls for debate on safety of Ostrovets plant

02 February 2021

The European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy has approved a draft resolution on the safety of the Ostrovets nuclear power plant in Belarus. Committee members voted 66 in favour and two against the resolution, with seven abstentions. The document, which was initiated by Lithuania, will be discussed at the plenary session of the European Parliament next week.

The Ostrovets plant in Belarus (Image: Rosatom)

The Committee said on 28 January that it "regrets the hasty launch" of the plant and calls for its activities to be "suspended until all EU safety recommendations have been implemented".

The draft resolution says the plant is 50km from Vilnius, in Lithuania, and close to other EU countries, including Estonia, Latvia and Poland. It claims there has been a "persistent lack of transparency and official information regarding recurrent emergency shutdowns of the reactor and equipment failure" during the commissioning of the plant last year. This included the malfunction of four voltage transformers and cooling systems, it says.

Belarusian regulator Gosatomnadzor is "under constant political pressure", the draft says, and "lacks sufficient independence". It "deeply regrets the hasty commercial start-up of the plant" next month, urging that all European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) safety recommendations must first be implemented.

Over the recent years the three Baltic States have ended their electricity isolation by building new interconnections with Finland, Poland and Sweden. However, for historical reasons, their electricity grid is still operated in a synchronous mode with the Russian and Belarusian systems, which is commonly known as the BRELL ring.

The draft resolution stresses the strategic importance of accelerating the synchronisation of the Baltic electricity grid with the Continental European Network and underlines that the future operation of the Ostrovets plant "should not in any way hinder" the desynchronisation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from the BRELL network, and that the European Union should continue the integration of the three Baltic States into the EU electricity grid.

The resolution calls for "further high-level involvement" of the European Union and its institutions in this issue of ultimate European importance.

The plant consists of two VVER-1200 reactors built by Russia's Rosatom. Trial operation of unit 1 started in December and last month it was brought to 100% of its rated power. It is now undergoing testing of equipment and systems. Gosatomnadzor and ENSREG plan to hold a joint visit to the plant later this month.

Currently, three VVER-1200 units are already in operation, all in Russia. Two at the Novovoronezh NPP and one at the Leningrad NPP. The fourth - Leningrad II unit 2 - was connected to the grid for the first time last October.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News