IAEA completes SEED mission to Belarus

23 January 2017

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has concluded a five-day Site and External Events Design (SEED) mission to Belarus, which is building its first nuclear power reactors. The two Russian-designed 1170 MWe VVER units are scheduled to begin operations by 2020.

SEED missions are designed to assist the Vienna-based agency's Member States at different stages in the development of a nuclear power program. Belarus has hosted other IAEA reviews, including an Integrated Regulatory Review Service last October and an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review in 2012.

The IAEA said on 20 January the SEED team had reviewed the design parameters of the nuclear power plant Belarus is constructing against external hazards specific to the site at Ostrovets in northern Belarus. The team also reviewed the authorities' characterisation of site hazards and the process for screening them, and exchanged views with the host on challenges related to external events in light of lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

"Nuclear safety is a national responsibility and, by inviting this mission, the Government of Belarus has shown a strong commitment to meet the intent of IAEA Safety Standards in the development of the country's nuclear power program," Greg Rzentkowski, director of the IAEA's Division of Nuclear Installation Safety, said in the statement. "This mission demonstrated that appropriate steps have been taken to establish the design parameters of the nuclear power plant to protect it against the worst credible external event."

In its preliminary findings, the SEED team said the plant's design parameters accounted for site-specific external hazards, such as earthquakes, floods and extreme weather, as well as human-induced events. The team noted that hazard monitoring programs, which will be implemented throughout the life cycle of the plant, were adequate and properly documented. Additionally, measures have been taken to address challenges related to external events in light of lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

The mission team comprised two experts, from France and Hungary, and four IAEA staff members. Their activities included a review of the operator's Preliminary Safety Analysis Report and supporting documents, in particular sections related to the design basis of the plant and site characterisation.

The team held talks with Mikhail Mikhaduk, Belarus deputy minister of energy, as well as with experts from the Ministry of Energy, the nuclear regulatory authority, the plant designer, the operator and technical support organisations. The team also met with Energy Minister Vladimir Potupchik.

"Nuclear safety is a top priority for Belarus," Mikhaduk said, according to the IAEA statement. "The results of this mission will help us as we move forward with the development of our nuclear power program in a safe and confident manner. The team's suggestions will assist the operator in preparing for the next stage of licensing."

SEED team leader Ovidiu Coman, an IAEA Senior Nuclear Safety Officer, said the Belarusian counterparts cooperated with the review team "in an open and transparent manner".

The team identified the following good practices: a systematic and comprehensive screening of external site-specific hazards on the basis of well-documented criteria; and a comprehensive probabilistic safety assessment of both internal and external events, to be delivered by the operator to the regulator as part of licensing documentation in advance of the commercial operation of the plant.

Suggestions for improvement were to further improve licensing documentation related to information on electromagnetic and lightning hazards, and information on site-specific seismic ground motion; and to consider future developments for safety improvements related to challenges highlighted in the IAEA Fukushima Daiichi Accident report.

The final mission report will be delivered to the government of Belarus within three months. Belarusian authorities have told the IAEA that they intend to make the report public.

An intergovernmental agreement between Russia and Belarus specifically on cooperation in the construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus was signed in March 2011. Operation of the first unit of the Ostrovets plant is scheduled for November 2018 and the second unit for July 2020, to give 2340 MWe net capacity on line.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News