20 February 2017, Monday, 18:38

Misfortunes Chasing Rosatom’s NPP Construction In Belarus

22
ANDREI OZHAROVSKIY

The new incident with the reactor vessel for the Belarusian NPP just confirms the existence of the old problems.

Misfortunes just seem to chase the construction that “Rosatom” carries out in Belarus. In the very beginning, Belarus could violate the EEC UN conventions on public participation and transboundary impact assessment (Aarhus and Espoo Conventions). The construction had been started hastily, before the consultations with Lithuania were over and even before the approval of the architectural project.

Then there was the loud (in all senses) falling of the reactor vessel. Initially, the authorities and the nuclear scientists tried to conceal the fact that the vessel had fallen, and then they wanted to underestimate the consequences of the incident. In the end, it was decided to replace the damaged reactor vessel, and yesterday another emergency situation occurred during transportation of the new vessel by railway.

It seems important to stress out that nuclear experts were in no hurry (or maybe they had no intention) to inform about the incident. This time, the emergency situation was reported by the readers of the charter97.org website. It was a bit later when the official website of the Belarusian NPP construction informed that “in a reduced clearance, the protecting metallic transportation cover of the oversize cargo (the reactor vessel for the Belarusian NPP) insignificantly touched the catenary mast.” It remains unclear what they meant by “touched the catenary mast”, whether the mast is in order, and whether the reactor vessel is in order.

I’d like to remind that numerous requests filed by both Belarusian and Russian society to publish the video of the previous incident with the reactor vessel remained unanswered. This time again, the message published by the department of information and public relations contains no photos or videos of that post which was hit by the reactor vessel or of the reactor vessel which hit the post.

The phrase “no damage of the reactor vessel was revealed” looks especially hilarious in the official message. I don’t think that the railway station Slaunaye of the Belarusian railways has any serious radiographic equipment capable of revealing damage of a 330-tons aggregate. I don’t think anything but the visual observation was held there. It takes time to reveal the damage, but the battered vessel continues its way to the construction site in Astravets.

I admit that the damage of the vessel might be insignificant, but a strong feeling of déjà vu comes over me. Do you remember how this summer the nuclear experts of Belarus and Russia assured us of the non-significance of the damage at first? And then it turned out the reactor vessel needed replacement…

There is one more important observation. Under a normal approach to the NPP construction, which means all operations are conducted on a standard basis, in compliance with the instructions, there should be neither that summertime “vessel’s touching the ground” nor yesterday’s “insignificant touching the catenary mast by the reactor vessel”. We see that the construction of the NPP is accompanied with violation of instructions, haste, and negligence. This is a sort of a style, it remains inevitable during more responsible operations, mounting the systems which are vital for the security of the NPP.

An NPP remains dangerous by itself, no matter how perfectly it is designed and built. The NPP which is built in Lukashenka’s style is twice, or even tenfold more dangerous.

So far, we have an opportunity to terminate this dangerous and unnecessary nuclear construction. The senselessness of the project is becoming more and more evident, and the danger of the construction which continues rather for political reasons than the economic ones, continues to grow.

How many more “signals” do they need to give up the nuclear reckless attempt? So far, the nuclear fuel has not been delivered to the NPP, so it is not dangerous yet. If they complete the construction and load the fuel, it will officially become “the object of nuclear and radioactive danger”. If someone thinks that after that all incidents and emergency situations will stop – just look what is happening at the recently built 6th power block of the Novovoronezh NPP with the identical reactor VVER-1200. The block had worked at its 100% capacity for two weeks, when its generator burned down and it has been under repair for a month and a half by now. Accidents continue.

Andrei Ozharovskiy (Moscow), specially for charter97.org