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“Emergency Situation” at Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant

An accident in July at the construction site of the first nuclear power plant in Belarus has recently been revealed, according to POWER magazine.

Exact details of the accident are not entirely clear, but Rosatom, the Russian state firm behind the construction of the plant, revealed that on 10 July, a 330-ton reactor vessel fell during preparations for installation for a media event the next day.

Rosatom officials blamed workers for not properly securing the vessel, and tried to brush off allegations by Belarusian officials, suggesting via social media that the vessel was dropped from “a height of two to four meters.”

"It is wrong to use misleading words like ‘hit the ground’ or ‘fell’ because the reactor was moving toward the ground at a pace below that of a pedestrian," Rosatom’s First Deputy CEO for Operations Management Alexander Lokshin told reporters on 1 August.

Nevertheless, news of the incident was allegedly suppressed for at least two weeks, and only merged following media speculation reports in neighboring Lithuania.

Sixteen days after the incident on 26 July, the Belarusian Energy Ministry finally confirmed the plant experienced an “emergency situation”, while Rosatom claimed the installation of the new vessel would continue as planned. That changed on 11 August when Belarus requested a replacement vessel, after agreeing only a day earlier to bring in experts to stress test the vessel.

The new facility being built in Ostrovets near the Lithuanian border has been championed by the Belarus government as necessary to promote energy independence. Yet the plan has run into opposition due to possible environmental damage as well as the apparent secrecy behind the project.

The Lithuanian press has been by and large sharply critical of the construction of the plant located some fifty kilometers from Vilnius. Officials have vowed not to purchase energy from the facility, which is expected to start operation in November 2018 with its second unit scheduled in July 2020.

By Erwin Cifuentes for Oilprice.com

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