23 March 2023, Thursday, 7:59
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Andrei Ozharovsky: Something Bad May Happen To BelNPP

Andrei Ozharovsky: Something Bad May Happen To BelNPP

The power station in Astravets has many defects.

According to Lithuanian intelligence, in May 2022, cracks in the welds of the reactor vessel of one of the units were discovered at the Astravets nuclear power plant. The chemical composition of the water in the first circulation circuit, which cools the reactor of the second power unit, was also changed. The Lukashenka regime and the Rosatom corporation concealed incidents and defects in the BelNPP reactor systems.

The Ministry of Energy of Belarus called Lithuania's information about the BelNPP "a purposeful action to discredit the project." But at the same time, the department had to admit that not everything is in order with the nuclear power plant, and it needs repairs.

The website Charter97.org asked the famous Russian nuclear physicist Andrei Ozharovsky to comment on this information:

— It should be noted that defects and incidents are different things. If we are talking about incidents, then this is the release of radioactive substances into the environment. If there were such cases, then you need to figure out where and how to measure them. In the documents that I have, I did not find information about the incidents. Defects are what can lead to incidents, they should be discussed separately.

Firstly, I don’t see anything new for Rosatom, and in particular the Belarusian nuclear power plant that it built, in the presence of defects. If you look at the old reports of the Russian regulatory body, Rostekhnadzor, then it says "manufacturing defects are one of the causes of disruptions in the operation of Russian nuclear power plants". It's not something so surprising that you couldn't think of it. The fact that Rosatom builds low-quality nuclear power plants is known to everyone, except for the propagandists of Rosatom itself and its agents, including those in Belarus.

Could they have hidden it? Of course they could. We know about two serious violations during the construction of the BelNPP, when the reactor was dropped from a height of four meters or more, and also when another one was hit against a railway pole during transportation. Neither the Belarusian authorities, nor the supervisory authorities, nor the customer for the construction of the station, the Ministry of Energy of Belarus, reported this. We, the activists of the Belarusian Anti-Nuclear Campaign, learned about these serious incidents from eyewitnesses.

This is the standard of Belarusian nuclear scientists, taken from Russian colleagues, not to report anything, to switch on a secrecy regime. Therefore, I cannot confirm the Lithuanian intelligence data, but everything looks quite plausible. Rosatom may have defects, and the Belarusian authorities may collude with the Russians and hide both the incident and these very damages to the operating power unit.

Indirect evidence of this may be that the reactor is working worse than promised. Long downtime, frequent shutdowns, unscheduled shutdowns, unscheduled repairs may be an indication that nuclear scientists are trying to fix something there, to fix something at an already running reactor. This is extremely bad, because such defects must be identified at the construction stage and equipment with defects must not be commissioned.

Let me also remind you that there were reports from the Belarusian "Cyberpartisans" who were able to find documents about the turbine building, not about the reactor itself, but other parts of the nuclear power plant, where the number of imperfections and defects reached dozens of thousands. Not all of them were serious, there were cases when light bulbs were screwed in the wrong way or switches were not there. But there were also quite serious ones, for example, precipitation leaks in the building of the steam chamber, which is important for safety. So there are defects at the Belarusian nuclear power plant, I am absolutely sure of this.

— What can be said about such an attitude towards the construction of such an object and what could be the consequences?

— This attitude is quite standard, nuclear scientists are trying to get themselves out of the control of society, because they are uncomfortable when they are controlled. Increased demands are made on them by the public for one simple reason: an accident at a nuclear power plant is incomparably more dangerous than an accident, for example, at a gas station of the same capacity. If something goes wrong with gas equipment, it will, of course, be bad, employees will suffer. If something goes wrong at a nuclear power plant, we remember from Chernobyl that serious consequences can be hundreds of kilometers away.

Rosatom has found a weak link — this is Belarus, where there is no serious control on the part of the customer. Well, what kind of a customer is that? I'm telling you — Rosatom agents are sitting in the Ministry of Energy of Belarus and believe in all these fairy tales and advertising promises. They built the best they could. And such an incident as the fall of the reactor is not unique either. During the construction of the first block of the Leningrad station, not the reactor vessel itself was dropped, but the internal devices. Quite serious heavy equipment should be installed inside the reactor, in which nuclear fuel is placed later. These internals were also broken during an installation attempt.

For me, as a person who has been observing the activities of Rosatom for a long time, this is not a big surprise. The bottom line is that in Belarus they managed to do all this without serious control from both the Belarusian regulator and the public.

Moreover, it was such a bad signal for me when the Lukashenka regime began to smash the environmental movement. We know that the organization "Ecohome", which was one of the participants in the "Belarusian anti-nuclear campaign", was included in some shameful lists. And if those in power destroy environmental organizations, then they really have something to hide. So, this is such an unpleasant indicator that something can happen. Lack of control never led to anything good.