Astravyets NPP

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Abstract: After parliament's agreement with Moscow in 2011 illegal construction started at the Belarusian Astravyets NPP to start nuclear energy production in 2017[1].


Astravyets/Ostrovets NPP is located in the Grodno region.[2]

In most commercial sources the nuclear power plant is referred to as "Ostrovets NPP" which is the Russian name. As the site is actually located in Belarus we will use the Belarusian name of the area which is Astravyets.[3]

western part of Belarus

nuclear map of Belarus, Ostrovets section

Technical details

The Belarusian nuclear power plant (NPP) is supposed to consist of two units with total capacity of up to 2,400 (2x1,200) MW.[2]

The main technical and economic characteristics of the proposed AES-2006[2]:

  • specified power capacity - 1,200 MW (e)
  • number of units - 2
  • designed life time per unit - 50 years
  • efficiency (net) - 33.9%
  • energy consumption for internal needs - <7.48% of the nominal power

Russia's AtomEnergoMash (AEM) will supply the reactor pressure vessels, reactor internals, and core catchers for two VVER-1200 units that are to be built as part of Belarus' first nuclear power plant at Astravyets. In total AEM noted that it will supply approximately 4,000 tonnes of components that will be manufactured at its Atommash plant in Volgodonsk and delivered to the Astravyets site over the period 2013-2017. The internal equipment includes upper blocks, reactor shafts and reflection shields. A $10 billion turnkey contract was finalised between Belarus and Russian state nuclear enterprise Rosatom in July 2012 for the supply of two Gidropress-designed AES-2006 model VVER-1200 pressurized water reactors. The main construction contract, however, was awarded to AtomStroyExport (ASE) back in October 2011 and site works are already underway, although first concrete has yet to be poured. Unit 1 is currently slated to begin operation in 2018 while unit 2 is due to follow in 2020. Rosatom has described the AES-2006 as its 'reference' design due to its deployment in China at Tianwan and current construction in Russia at Novovoronezh Phase II, Leningrad Phase II - as well as at the Baltic site in Kaliningrad. AEM noted that it has completed core catchers for the Novovoronezh and Baltic units, and is as of spring 2013 in the process of manufacturing further reactor components for the Baltic plant.[4]

In line with the document the Belarusian nuclear power plant will have two power-generating units with an installed nominal capacity of 1,194 MW each. The total capacity of the power plant will be 2,388 MW, the operating life will be 50 years, and the average annual electricity output in basic operation mode will be 17,095.1 million kWh. The resolution has also approved the architectural design of the Belarusian nuclear power plant (the list of expenses) with the preliminary estimated cost at RUB 44.582 billion in year 2001 prices, BYR 2.9 trillion in year 2006 prices, or $340.86 million.[5] The same project is being used in the Russian Federation for the construction of the Baltic NPP, Novovoronezh NPP-2 and Leningrad NPP-2. An analogous Tianwan NPP is already in operation in China.[2]


In June 2009 the Belarusian government announced that Atomstroyexport would be the general contractor, with Russian and Belarus subcontractors, notably St Petersburg Atomenergoproekt. An intergovernmental agreement concerning the plant was signed in March 2011. A preliminary turnkey construction contract with Atomstroyexport for a 2,400 MWe plant (2 x 1,200 MWe AES-2006 units using V-491 reactors) was signed in October 2011 by Belarus state-owned Nuclear Power Plant Construction Directorate, and a general construction contract was initialled in May 2012, then signed in July. St Petersburg AEP is reported to have been involved with the project since 2004, including site selection and technology choice.[6]

The operational start of the first unit of the Astravyets plant is scheduled for November 2018 and the second unit in July 2020 to supply 2,340 MWe.

 In December 2011 the Nuclear Power Engineering Department of the Energy Ministry submitted an application for a construction license to state nuclear regulator Gosatomnadzor. During 2012 some site works were under way, and excavation for the second unit started in February 2013.[6]

Planned Belarus Nuclear Power Reactors[6]

reactor type MWe gross start construction commercial operation
Astravyets 1 VVER-1200/491 1,200 November 2013 Early 2019
Astravyets 2 VVER-1200/491 1,200 Early 2015 Late 2020

Two further units are proposed for about five years later.[6]


Russia's policy for building nuclear power plants in non-nuclear weapons states is to deliver on a turnkey basis, including supply of all fuel and repatriation of used fuel for the life of the plant. The fuel is to be reprocessed in Russia and the separated wastes returned to the client country eventually.[6]


In line with the resolution the money will be spent on building installations of the nuclear power plant, a manufacturing base of the nuclear power plant, a united pioneering manufacturing base, a 110/10kV substation Viliya, a railway line, and a road from the R-45 (Goza) motorway that will pass via the nuclear power plant and Astravyets. The money will be also spent on building a bypass road around the town of Astravyets that will be connected with the M7 motorway Minsk - Oshmyany - Lithuania. In line with the resolution the money will be spent on performing design and exploration work and on-site designer supervision for off-site utilities, housing, social and cultural objects, for building power lines and links to the national power grid.[7]

In June 2009 the government announced that US$ 9 billion Russian financing had been lined up, and in August 2009, the agreement on financing from 2010 was confirmed. "Active negotiations" continued, since Belarus wanted the Russian loan to include provision for infrastructure. Belarus' official cost estimate including infrastructure is US$ 9.4 billion, with one third of this to be spent 2011-15. In November 2011 it was agreed that Russia would lend up to $10 billion for 25 years to finance 90% of the contract between Atomstroyexport and the Belarus Directorate for Nuclear Power Plant Construction. In February 2012 Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank (VEB) and Belarusian commercial bank Belvnesheconombank signed an agreement needed to implement the Russian export credit facility. In May 2012 the parties confirmed that the first installment under the design contract would be $204 million, and that this would be followed by $285 million for pre-construction site works. In April 2013 Atomenergomash (AEM) won the tender to supply the two reactors, which will be manufactured by AEM-Technologies at the Atommash plant at Volgodonsk.[6]


  • risk of another violent earthquake of the scale of the 1909 disaster - the 7.0 magnitude quake of 1909 was the strongest ever recorded in Belarus
  • dominant western winds, which would carry the radioactive fallout all over the country should an accident

The peculiarity of the AES-2006 is a reactor system with additional security systems[2]:

  • passive heat removal system
  • system of dump and clean up of the shell environment
  • double protective containment
  • molten fuel trap in the event of an unpredictable accident

According to a study by the German federal authority for radiation safety, Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz, the probability of leukaemia among children under five years age is the higher the closer their proximity is to a nuclear power plant. The analysis between 1980 and 2003 gathered statistical data about 1,592 children with cancer and 4,375 healthy children in 41 German districts in close proximity to 16 NPPs.[8]

"A conclusion is thus reached in the study that the nuclear power plant in that region bears the immediate culpability for 29 cancer cases, including 20 leukaemia cases among children under five who lived in its vicinity. According to data gathered by specialised clinics in the Gomel region – an area in Belarus that sustained some of the worst impact of radiation fallout following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 – incidence of leukaemia in children and adults alike has increased by 50 percent after the notorious disaster compared to the rate that existed before the accident. The technological processes taking place at any NPP take as a given that the surrounding atmosphere will be systematically receiving radionuclide discharges – products of nuclear fission and activation, radioactive noble gases, radioactive iodine, and tritium (heavy hydrogen). For example, a nuclear reactor of the pressurised-water type – one of the more common reactor types employed in Russia such as a typical VVER-1000 operating in a design-basis mode and at its nominal capacity - will be responsible for as much as 20 terabecquerel worth of radioactive discharge emitted through its ventilation pipe system."[8]

In light of this data that highlights the known hazard of even smoothly operating nuclear power plants one is bound to question the moral underpinnings of the very practice that entitles NPPs to daily emit their dangerous radioactive discharges into the surrounding atmosphere. One would also expect to find an increased rate of cancer cases among children living near each of the 10 nuclear power plants in operation in Russia. The highest risk would be associated with NPPs located within less than five kilometres from the nearby population, such as in the town of Udoml, which is near the Kalinin NPP, to Moscow’s north. A significantly higher cancer incidence rate could also be predicted in the vicinity of nuclear power plants operating pressurised-tube reactors, or RBMKs, such as the Leningrad and Kursk NPPs, near St. Petersburg and the Southwest Russian city of Kursk, respectively.[8]

Further information resources

  • Status of proposed nuclear plants in the Baltic Sea region as of August 29, 2012[9]:
    • Astravyets 1:
      • construction start: 2013
      • proposed operation begin: 2017
    • Astravyets 2:
      • construction start: 2014
      • proposed operation begin: 2018

The main participants

  • State Enterprise "Directorate for Nuclear Power Plant Construction" is the customer of preparatory, design and survey works on the construction of the nuclear power plant.
  • Belarusian Research and Development Institute of Power Industry "Belnipienergoprom" is the general designer coordinating the design and construction documents for the construction of the nuclear power plant.
  • Russian Federation Nuclear Power Equipment and Service Export Company "Atomstroyexport" - the general contractor for the construction of the Belarusian nuclear power plant.
  • Joint Institute for Power and Nuclear Research - "Sosny" of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus performs scientific support of the work on the construction of the nuclear power plant.
  • The Ministry for Emergency Situations of the Republic of Belarus is responsible for the organization and implementation of State administration in the sphere of nuclear and radiation safety. To execute State surveillance over nuclear and radiation safety the Ministry founded the Department for Nuclear and Radiation Safety.
  • additional information: A selection of news and other reports concerning the construction of the Belarusian nuclear power plant is available in the special section of the Belarusian Telegraph Agency web-site. Category: Safety of Belarusian NPP


The Russian project "AES-2006" with pressurized water reactors (PWR) of the third generation was chosen for the Belarusian NPP.[2] Generation 3 reactors are outdated technology, though the nuclear industry claims it would be "advanced reactors with increased safety and reliability"[2].

Chronology of the major decisions and contracts related to the construction of the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant

  • September 2007 – adoption of the Energy Security Concept of the Republic of Belarus, providing the inclusion of nuclear fuel on the energy balance of the republic and the construction of a nuclear power plant. Initiation of the development of the system of State regulation in the sphere of nuclear safety.
  • November 12, 2007 – Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus №565 "On Some Measures for the Construction of a Nuclear Power Plant." Identified: the customer to implement the preparatory and development works, the general designer for the coordination of the design and construction documents for the construction of the nuclear power plant as well as the State authority responsible for ensuring nuclear and radiation safety.
  • December 27, 2007 – Order of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Belarus №165r, appointing the State Commission for determining the site for the construction of the nuclear power plant in Belarus.
  • July 30, 2008 – The Law of the Republic of Belarus №426-W "On the use of nuclear energy". Together with the Law of the Republic of Belarus of January 5, 1998 № 122-3 «On radiation safety of the population" forms the legal basis for the development of nuclear and radiation safety in the Republic of Belarus.
  • December 20, 2008 – Act of the State Commission on the selection of the location for the Belarusian nuclear power plant. Astravyets site in Grodno region was defined as major (preferential).
  • January 31, 2008 – Resolution of the Security Council of the Republic of Belarus №1. It was decided to construct a nuclear power plant in the Republic of Belarus with total capacity of 2,000 MW. The commissioning of the first power unit was scheduled for 2016 and the second - for 2018.
  • September 15, 2011 – Decree of the President of the Republic of Belarus №418 "On the placement and design of the nuclear power plant in the Republic of Belarus", according to which Astravyets site in Grodno region was defined as the location for the construction of the NPP.
  • October 11, 2011 – the contract for the construction of power unit 1 and 2 of the Belarusian NPP between "Atomstroyexport" (Russian Federation) and the State Enterprise " Directorate for Nuclear Power Plant Construction."
  • July 18, 2012 – General contract for the construction of the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant between the corporation "Nizhny Novgorod Engineering Company" ATOMENERGOPROEKT (under the supervision of "Atomstroyexport") and the State Enterprise "Directorate for Nuclear Power Plant Construction".



  • 01.02.2013 Rosatom: "The world’s safest nuclear power plant will be built in Ostrovets"
  • 16.03.2009 Belarus, Lithuania, and a nuclear power plant in search of a solution
  • "Only Belarus - Europe’s "last dictatorship" - is expected this year to push ahead, despite continuous public protests, with construction at the site of Astravyets NPP, another Rosatom project, where concrete filling work is scheduled at the foundation of the first reactor building. The developments of recent years demonstrate, however, that this work, too, may be ceased at any time, with the Astravyets NPP project running against a freeze or a revision of equally invalidating force that will render the whole venture a mistake – hopefully one prevented in time."[10]
  • 17.08.2013 Belarus-Lithuania public hearings on the Belarusian NPP in Astravyets
  • 19.08.2013 Nuclear station construction fateful for Astravyets District
  • In October 2013 Belarusian environmental organizations (BelTA) initated several measurements of gamma-radiation in public places and around the constuction site in Astravyets. Results are expected in mid-November and "will be presented to the public via mass media and discussed at roundtable sessions and seminars". According to Chairman of the Environmental Initiative association Yuri Solovyov, "The results of the tests will become a kind of benchmark that will be used to monitor the changes" and will "allow exercising public control over the environmental safety of the NPP".[11]

03.11.2011 Minsk’s cooperation agreement with Moscow on building Astravyets NPP ratified in closed-door parliament hearing

October 20th 2011 the Belarussian parliament ratified a cooperation agreement with Moscow on building the Astravyets NPP called "agreement on cooperation in the construction of the Belarusian nuclear power plant." The agreement is yet to be ratified, but is applied "provisionally". Belarus violates a number of laws by signing and ratifying NPP cooperation agreement, lawyers say.

Belarus is a signatory to two international ecological treaties that have a direct bearing on the development of such projects as the nuclear power plant in Astravyets - the 1991 Espoo Convention on the Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, signed in the Danish city of Aarhus in 1998.

Critics of the future NPP - both among environmental organisations in neighbouring countries and at government level in Lithuania, which has repeatedly voiced its concern over the plans to build the site in such close proximity to its border – have pointed out a number of stark inconsistencies between the decisions and steps undertaken by Belarus in the Astravyets project.

According to Irina Sukhiy, Ekodom's chair of the board, the cooperation agreement does in fact contain ecological information if only because it governs the management of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) that will be generated at the future plant, among other issues.

Ekodom's legal counsel Grigory Fyodorov believes the Belarusian government's refusal to provide the text of the NPP cooperation agreement is a direct violation of Article 8 of the Aarhus Convention, "Public participation during the preparation of executive regulations and/or generally applicable legally binding normative instruments," which says:

"Each Party shall strive to promote effective public participation at an appropriate stage, and while options are still open, during the preparation by public authorities of executive regulations and other generally applicable legally binding rules that may have a significant effect on the environment."

This article of the convention holds the signatory parties to the obligation of fixing sufficient time-frames for effective public participation, publishing or making otherwise publicly available draft rules and other legally binding documents, and providing the public with the opportunity to comment, directly or through representative consultative bodies.

Fyodorov's colleague from the Belarusian Legal Transformation Center, Olga Smolyanko, who also heads the center, says that publication of draft laws in Belarus is not of an obligatory nature.

This, she says, creates a fundamental problem: Because draft laws are not made available for the public, citizens have no opportunity to participate in public discussions of current legislative initiatives and the state can pass new laws without giving due consideration to public opinion. According to Smolyanko, this state of affairs defies the principles of the country's constitution.

"Failure to provide the citizens with information that pertains to their rights and lawful interests runs contrary to the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus. The main law of our country entitles its citizens to obtaining information that pertains to their lawful rights and interests," Smolyanko told Bellona in a comment.

Speaking at a June 30, 2010 parliamentary meeting, First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Vladimir Semashko said China and Kazakhstan could also produce nuclear fuel for the Belarusian NPP as both these countries have uranium deposits at their disposal.

"The nuclear fuel purchased from Russian implementing organisations and generated as spent nuclear fuel in the reactors of the NPP's units shall be returned to the Russian Federation for reprocessing on conditions to be determined by the Parties in a separate agreement."

This points to a high likelihood that the first option, repatriation of Belarusian SNF to Russia - and Belarus accepting back the waste generated during reprocessing - will be the most realistic scenario. And the phrase, in Article 9, "on conditions to be determined by the Parties in a separate agreement" plays a key role in whether it is also the most feasible one.

Aside from transportation and other safety-related issues - such as that the resulting radioactive waste that Belarus will have to accept back after reprocessing will total up to 200 tonnes per every tonne of repatriated SNF - one pressing problem arises from the fact that no reprocessing facility capable of handling SNF generated in VVER-1200 reactors, the model slated for operation at Astravyets, exists or is even envisioned for construction in Russia, while storage facilities are filled to capacity.

And, according to Ecodefense!'s co-chair Vladimir Slivyak, the reprocessing and storage capacity problem puts the clause on repatriation of Belarusian spent nuclear fuel at odds with the Russian legislation, which prohibits import of radioactive waste into Russia for storage or disposal.

Sergei Novikov, head of Rosatom's communications department, earlier told the European Radio for Belarus that "this is absolutely a market service, and there exists this international practice whereby [spent nuclear] fuel is taken back for reprocessing for a [negotiated] price."

In estimates done by Russian experts, SNF reprocessing services could cost Belarus over $3 billion in market prices over the entire period of operation of the new NPP in Astravyets.[12]


  • NPP construction site: 330 t reactor pressure vessel dropped 2-4 m during preparation for its installation on July 10, 2016[13][14]; Belarusian politicians announced the damaged RPV to be replaced[15][16]
  • a worker was injured and killed as the result of the explosion of an oxygen tank at the construction site on August 26, 2106[16]

See also

  1. as at May 11, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 General Information about the Construction of the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant (Specifications of the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant), 10 June 2013,
  3. - as of October 8, 2016
  4. AtomEnergoMash reactors for Astravyets, 19 April 2013,
  5. Belarus government approves nuclear station design documents, 02 October 2013,
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Nuclear Power in Belarus, 19 April 2013,
  7. Belarus government approves nuclear station design documents, 2 October 2013,
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Proximity to nuclear power plants can trigger childhood leukaemia, new report warns, 24 December 2007,
  9. composition by Bernd Ebeling, as at August 29, 2012
    source: World Nuclear Industrial Status Report 2012, Schneider, M. et al.; Nuclear Power Reactors in the World, IAEA, Vienna, 2008
  10. Baltic NPP debacle: Construction reported halted, possibly mothballed, 30 May 2013,
  11. Air and soil samples taken near Belarus' NPP, October 2013,
    Public monitoring of environmental impact of Belarus’ NPP kicks off in Belarus, 15 October 2013,
    Environment near Astravyets NPP to be monitored, 16 October (?),
    Ekaterina Shibko: The environment in the area will be monitored on a regular basis and the results will be informed to the residents of Belarus and other countries.
    Yuri Soloviev, the chair of the community association "Environmental Initiative": "A similar project has been implemented in Finland and we are willingly accept the experience of our Finnish colleagues"
    Yury Bugrob, engineer at the National Center of Radiation Control and Environmental Monitoring: "It takes two weeks to detect cesium and a month to detect strontium".
    Vladimir Samsonov, Deputy Head of the National Center of Radiation Control and Environmental Monitoring: "We already control the situation in the regions of Ignalinsky, Rovno and Smolensk and NPPs".
  12. as at November 3, 2011
  13. - as of October 8, 2016
  14.!5322053/ - as of October 8, 2016
  15. - as of October 8, 2106
  16. 16.0 16.1 - as of October 8, 2016