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Belarusian nuclear plant reopens after transformer explosions halt production

23 November 2020

Belarus’s new Astravets nuclear power plant has resumed operations after a series of transformer explosions halted production on November 8, just one day after President Alexander Lukashenko officially opened the country’s only nuclear power plant.

Astravets during construction - Wikimedia/User: Renessaince
Astravets during construction - Wikimedia/User: Renessaince

Belarus’s Ministry of Energy announced on November 19 that the first power unit of the Astravets nuclear power plant was connected to the grid after the replacement of voltage transformers. The power unit was connected to the grid and the load was increased in accordance with the requirements of the technological regulations for safe operation without any issues. The reactor of the first power unit is currently operating at 40% of the nominal power.

Production at the nuclear plant had been halted on November 8 after a series of voltage transformer explosions occurred. The plant was built by Russian state-owned company Rosatom and was financed with a loan from Russia.

The construction of the plant has long been criticised by Belarus’s neighbour Lithuania whose capital Vilnius is located just 25 miles (40km) away. Lithuania said that construction of Astravets was plagued by safety incidents, stolen material, and poor working conditions. The plant also draws cooling water from the Nevis River, a source of drinking water in Lithuania. Lithuania responded to the plant’s opening by passing a law which prevents all imports of electricity from Belarus.

Rosatom has denied all claims by Lithuania and said that the plant’s design and construction met the highest international standards, as confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The Astravets plant – Belarus’s only nuclear power plant – was inaugurated on November 7 during a ceremony attended by President Alexander Lukashenko who said that the plant would allow Belarus to “become a nuclear power”. Lukashenko added that the facility marked a step into the future for Belarus and would ensure the continued security of the country’s energy supply.

The final completion of the nuclear plant is planned for 2022 when it will have two reactor units, each generating around 1,200 megawatts.

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