Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Accident-hit reactor pressure vessel should be replaced if even minimal damage is found, Lukashenka says

Iryna Lewshyna, Naviny.by

The reactor pressure vessel (RPV) that was involved in last month`s accident at the construction site for the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant will have to be replaced if tests find even minimal damage, Alyaksandr Lukashenka said on Thursday.

Speaking during his visit to Belarus` northwestern Braslaw district, Mr. Lukashenka said that he had seen video footage of the accident and ordered an immediate inquiry.

He referred to the Russian-built RPV as a "barrel" with 20-centimer-thick walls.

"[The accident] was reported to me on the morning when it happened," the government`s news agency BelTA quoted him as saying. "They were moving it at its storage location, practicing lifting it. They had lifted it as high as I am, maybe a bit higher, the slings failed and one end of this `barrel` dropped to the ground and was lifted back."

Mr. Lukashenka warned that Belarus would reject the RPV even if it had the "slightest damage or scratches." "And Russians say that if Belarusians reject this RPV they will bring and install a new one," he said.

As a Chernobyl-affected country, Belarus is interested in having a safe nuclear power plant, according to Mr. Lukashenka.

"The construction of this plant is under my personal control, let alone some accidents," he said.

He noted that Russia`s Nuclear Energy State Corporation (Rosatom) was interested to build a safe and accident-free nuclear power plant in Belarus. "It has built a great deal of stations across the world, they`re going to build them in Turkey, Egypt, they`re building them in Iran and China," he said. "God forbid anything happens, they will no longer receive any orders if that`s the case."

On August 1, Rosatom said that the 330-ton RPV slipped down slowly as it was being moved and touched the ground in the July 10 accident. It insisted that the equipment had not been damaged.

Rosatom added that it was still ready to replace the equipment if Minsk made such a request.

The Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant is currently under construction in the Astravets district, Homyel region, some 10 miles from the Lithuanian border. Its two reactors are to have a total generating capacity of up to 2,400 megawatts. The first reactor is expected to be put into operation in November 2018 and the other in July 2020.

AtomStroyExport, a subsidiary company of Rosatom, is to bear full responsibility for the project as the prime contractor.