This is possible
[b]By 2018, the Belarusian nuclear power plant will be generating its first kilowatts of electricity. The country’s most ambitious project to date will bring huge advantages from the launch of two reactors. Boasting a total capacity of up to 2,400MW, they’ll significantly reduce our consumption of natural gas, purchased currently with foreign currency, while considerably lowering the cost of electricity and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, our image will be enhanced, since all the wealthier states use nuclear power. Our new branch — of nuclear power engineering — should inspire the development of the Belarusian economy.[/b][b]Changing destiny[/b]
Ostrovets is a small, quiet town in the northern Grodno Region, with a population of less than 10,000. In 2008, local residents can hardly have imagined the far-reaching consequences of being given the nuclear power station site — chosen from 72 possibilities.
Ostrovets’ 200 hectare site was selected for meeting all IAEA criteria and major preparatory works are now underway. Over the next five years, two reactors are being built, alongside a huge production base overseeing the operation of the nuclear power station.
Slightly over a thousand people are currently working on site, with ground excavation for the foundations of the first reactor now complete, reading for the pouring of concrete. The second pit is to be dug soon and a multi-storey administrative building is under construction.
Of course, Ostrovets is expanding to meet the needs of its new residents, with shops and a concert hall opening. Since construction of the nuclear power plant began, the price of land has risen significantly, notes Adam Kovalko, the Chairman of the Ostrovets District Executive Committee. He tells us that the price almost rivals that in the regional centre, as investors are keen to buy land, offering trade facilities and services.
The prospects are huge, with three suburbs planned. The drafts are on show at the information centre of the Directorate for Nuclear Power Plant Construction. The first is already under construction, to house around 3,000 people and boasting a school, kindergarten, youth centre and shops. The second is to house 5,000 while the third will be at the town centre. Over the next decade, Ostrovets will be the most rapidly growing town in the country, increasing to a population of 35,000. Specialists working at the nuclear power station will, naturally, relocate, bringing their families.
From several proposals, Belarus chose Russia’s NPP-2006 power plant design, which operates in various countries and is typical for Central European states. The contract was signed in July 2012, with Russian Atomstroyexport JSC. Meanwhile, more than ten Belarusian design and construction organisations are involved, providing for around half
of the build.
The project envisages the launch of the first reactor by November 2018 and the second by July 2020. According to preliminary estimates, the cost should reach about $10bn, which will be repaid within 18.5 years. The station is designed to operate for 60 years, so its profitability is obvious.
Naturally, safety is a top concern, especially as the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe have been with us for over 25 years. In December, Minsk hosted a round table at which scientists, ecologists and nuclear industry experts discussed matters, with state representatives from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. It was agreed that the Belarusian nuclear plant meets all international norms and IAEA requirements, boasting enhanced safety characteristics and a high level of protection.
According to the Programme Director of the Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, Sergey Boyarkin, 54 similar Russian designed reactors are currently operational across ten countries worldwide, including 18 across five EU states. The technology has been well tested in various locations, including on nuclear submarines, with safe exploitation evident. The decision to use nuclear power certainly seems the most sensible.
Russia is supplying all equipment for the build, as well as training workers for the plant and organising related infrastructure.
Demand for nuclear energy is rising…
After the disaster at Japanese Fukushima, doubts were raised as to the safety of containment provision at nuclear power stations; clearly, radiation dispersion needs to be controlled in the event of a leak or explosion. Mr. Boyarkin notes that Russian atomic scientists now ensure that reliable protection systems are in place which were lacking at Fukushima.
Russian technology is much in demand as a result, with Rosatom almost doubling its portfolio of orders beyond Russian borders over the past two years. In 2010, 12 reactors were ordered, rising to 21 in late 2011. There’s no doubt that demand for nuclear power engineering continues to grow worldwide.
The advantages for Belarus are enhanced energy security, notes Mikhail Mikhadyuk, Belarus’ Deputy Energy Minister. He tells us that Belarus is among the few countries in the world which lacks its own energy resources, importing over 80 percent: primarily, natural gas, which fuels over 96 percent of domestic electricity use.
Prices for imported energy continue to rise, affecting our economy. At present, Belarus annually imports around 22bn cubic metres of natural gas, costing 11bn. The launch of the nuclear power plant will allow a saving of over 5m cubic metres of natural gas annually. Belarusian nuclear energy may even be exported to Russia, Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic States at some future date, creating budget revenue. On meeting BSU students of informatics and radio-electronics in late 2012, the President noted that a second nuclear power station could be on the cards, with a site already earmarked.
By Lilia Ogorodnikova
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