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12 videoconferences held by Belarusian Gosatomnadzor ahead of ENSREG experts' visit


MINSK, 17 December (BelTA) – The Nuclear and Radiation Safety Department of the Belarusian Emergencies Ministry (Gosatomnadzor) held 12 technical videoconferences as part of a peer review by the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) of the national action plan resulting from stress tests of the Belarusian nuclear power plant and secured preparations for a visit of European experts, Gosatomnadzor representatives told BelTA as they commented on the cancelled visit of the European experts to the Belarusian nuclear power plant this week.

According to Gosatomnadzor, the agency held 12 videoconferences to discuss administrative and technical aspects of events of the peer review, including six consultations between experts. The Belarusian side prepared and sent answers to 245 questions about the national action plan to ENSREG.

Initially the sides agreed that 13 ENSREG experts would stay in Belarus on 13-22 December as part of a full visit that would last a week and a half. The Belarusian side obtained all the necessary permits for all the experts to visit the nuclear power plant.

Gosatomnadzor explained: “Unfortunately, at the last moment and as part of routine information exchange we were informed that the experts would be unable to come to Belarus due to the epidemic situation. The Belarusian side understands the reasoning and agreed to the European partners' proposal to arrange a technical visit to the Belarusian nuclear power plant on 16-18 December in order to allow the ENSREG experts to see firsthand that safety equipment, systems, and components are in place and function.”

The source specified that taking into account the complicated epidemic conditions the Belarusian side promptly obtained all the necessary permits. Among other things the ENSREG team would not have had to produce negative COVID-19 test results at the border and would not have had to stay in self-isolation. “The Emergencies Ministry, the Healthcare Ministry, and the State Customs Committee issued all the necessary documents in record time in order to give a green corridor to the ENSREG team,” the source specified.

The Belarusian Energy Ministry previously stated that the Belarusian nuclear power plant had taken care of everything to enable comfortable work of the ENSREG team.

“A Gosatomnadzor team led by a department head left for the Belarusian nuclear power plant on 15 December in order to make sure that all the requirements of the European side concerning the organization of the visit had been met. The requirements were met indeed,” Gosatomnadzor stressed.

Gosatomnadzor reaffirmed the dedication of the Belarusian side to voluntary commitments regarding the organization of the peer review and counts on constructive interaction with ENSREG within the framework of the agreements both sides had reconciled.

BelTA reported earlier that experts of the European Commission and the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) were expected to visit the construction site of the Belarusian nuclear power plant on 16-18 December as part of a peer review of the national action plan compiled as a result of the stress tests, which were carried out in 2018. European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson stated that the Belarusian side had not organized a technical preparatory meeting, thus ruling out the possibility of the visit.

Belarus voluntarily organized stress tests of the Belarusian nuclear power plant in line with the European Union's procedure. The stress tests evaluated the availability of safety margins in excess of those required by the national legislation. Criteria of the stress tests included checking the nuclear power plant's resilience to natural phenomena, in particular, earthquakes and floods, as well as various man-made accidents. Apart from that, the criteria included a broad range of risks relating to the human factor.

As a result of the stress tests the national regulatory authority (Gosatomnadzor) prepared a national action plan, which summarized both recommendations given as a result of a national expert evaluation and recommendations given by European peer review experts. The document contains 23 measures, which are supposed to be implemented in 2019-2025. Some of the recommendations have already been fulfilled, including those relating to additional safeguards and safety-enhancing equipment.

The Belarusian nuclear power plant is being built near Ostrovets, Grodno Oblast using the Russian design AES-2006 featuring two VVER-1200 reactors with the total output capacity of 2,400MW.