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A render image of the Belarus' first nuclear power plant.
A render image of the Belarus' first nuclear power plant. (Credit: Directorate for NPP Construction, Belarus)

Belarus to be the first country in Europe and the second country in the world (after the United Arab Emirates) to start the construction of its first nuclear power plant in three decades.

The state enterprise Directorate for Nuclear Power Plant Construction under the Ministry of Energy, which is responsible for the implementation of the project, and which will also be the future operator, announced last Friday that the first nuclear safety-related concrete for the Astravyets NPP Unit 1 was poured on 6 November 2013.

A construction licence for the NPP in the northwest of the country was granted by Gozatomnazor, the regulatory body in the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Belarus. The construction of the first nuclear power plant was authorized by a Presidential Decree on 2 November 2013.

The first of two 1 170 megawatt-electric (MWe) units of the Russian VVER type (AES-2006) technology is scheduled to be in operation by 2018. The second unit is planned to be operational by 2020. The light water reactors are supplied by Atomstroyexport of the Russian Federation. The contract between Belarus and the Russian Federation includes fuel supply, take-back of spent fuel, training and other services. The project will be implemented on a “turnkey” basis.

[notification type=”default”]The VVER-1200 (or NPP-2006 or AES-2006) is an evolutionary development of the VVER-1000 water cooled and water moderated reactor. Specifications include a $1,200 per kW electric capital cost, 54 month planned construction time, and expected 60 year lifetime at 90% capacity factor.[/notification]

Belarus started its nuclear power program to meet an increasing demand for electricity. The country utilized IAEA services to help prepare its national nuclear program: an Energy Planning Analysis was done from 2007 to 2010 under a Technical Cooperation project, and a Nuclear Energy System Assessment was conducted from 2009 to 2011. A report of the latter was recently published by the IAEA (IAEA-TECDOC 1716) as a valuable reference case for other countries.