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SPECIAL REPORT: How the Belarusian nuclear power plant runs after the first unit was commissioned


The decision to build the Belarusian nuclear power plant was made in 2008. A lot has been accomplished since then. A significant event happened today: the certificate, which states the first unit of the nuclear power plant has been accepted for commercial operation, was signed. BelTA reporters visited the Belarusian nuclear power plant site and observed the nuclear power plant's operation.

The nuclear power plant can be seen from a distance of 30km thanks to the cooling towers. Each is 167 meters high, which is comparable to a 50-story building.

The evaporative cooling towers are the highest concrete structures in Belarus. Some think the towers release smoke but in essence they release steam. The towers are designed to cool a large amount of water by means of a directed air flow.

Spray cooling ponds also draw people's attention. They are also part of the cooling system.

The first unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant is made up of over 5,000 various equipment pieces and modules as well as a humongous number of technological systems. All of them operate as a single organism.

The machinery room of the first unit welcomed us with noise and hot air. “It is the epicenter of electricity generation. A turbine unit lies at its heart. The first unit is operating at 100% of its designed capacity now. It supplies about one fifth or one sixth of the amount of electricity the country consumes. Everything operates in normal mode. The equipment's ability to operate within designed parameters has been confirmed,” said Dmitry Krivin, head of the turbine shop.

We've managed to visit the central control room, too. “The personnel control parameters and manage equipment of the 330kV switchgear and control gear, the link to the power-generating units, and communications with the country's power grid,” said the shift supervisor Anatoly Stanilevich.

Close attention is paid to safety. The reactor building has a double protective shell. It cannot be damaged by a seven-point earthquake, a hurricane, a flood, a tornado, an explosion, and even a falling aircraft.

Low-enriched uranium dioxide, which is shaped as pellets 9-12mm in diameter and placed into hermetically sealed tubes, is used as fuel in the reactor's core. A pellet weighs only 5 grams but it can substitute 350kg of oil, 360m3 of natural gas, and 400kg of coal.

Work on the second unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant is in full swing. The unit is scheduled for physical launch in autumn. It is supposed to be commissioned next year.

Nearly 3 billion kWh of electricity has been generated since the first unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant was connected to the country's power grid. Once both units are commissioned, the nuclear power plant will be able to generate about 18.5 billion kWh of electricity per annum, which will satisfy roughly 40% of Belarus' demand for electricity.