Updated at 17:39,28-11-2020

Point of view: Astravets NPP might improve the energy situation in the region

Beata Stur, New Europe

EU has lifted sanctions from Belarus, which is giving new opportunities for the country to use its Astravets nuclear power plant (NPP) which is currently in construction, writes Beata Stur.

Recently all attention of European experts is focused on safety of NPPs and their economic effectiveness. In December 2015 on Paris climate summit the necessity of ecological energy has been further supported by 195 countries who have accepted the Convention on climate change, according to which parties involved shall make every effort to prevent the rising of the Earth’s temperature by more than 2 degrees Celsius.

Many experts and independent research agree that nuclear energy is much more ecological and in comparison to other energy sources, such as coal power plants, gas power plants, they give the lowest CO2 emissions to the air and help to avoid Greenhouse effect. Peaceful atom is also the only alternative energy source that doesn’t depend on weather conditions – wind and solar plants cannot support any country the whole year, unlike nuclear power plants.

Post-Fukushima safety rules have been increased drastically in regard to NPPs – a possibility of any kind of radioactive leak practically fell to zero even in the most extraordinary situations. Many energy experts confirm that nuclear energy of today has become much safer than even 20 years ago.

Dr. Horst-Michael Prasser, professor of Nuclear Energy Systems at ETH Zurich, explains that VVER-1200 used in Belarus is a Russian reactor and it is the next evolutionary step to VVER-1000 reactor which is currently operated in a number of countries.

‘I have noticed a lot of new safety features – its passive safety features can avoid a core melt without human intervention and with a lack of electricity. Another feature is core catcher that can localize a molten reactor core inside the containment. My point of view is that VVER-1200 design is very good’, said the expert.
Section Head of the IAEA Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section Milko Kovachev, Bulgaria’s former Energy Minister, had, in turn, noted that Belarus chose a time-tested nuclear power plant design:

“VVER-1200 is a new generation of power-generating units that Russia offers today. The design draws on the practices that were used in the construction of NPPs in China. There is a reference nuclear power plant under construction in Russia, the Leningrad NPP. This is a wise decision to choose time-tested advanced technologies. The fact that there is a reference plant is an important feature of this project.”

The economic efficiency of any new NPP in the Eastern Europe region will definitely improve the energy situation in the region.

For example, Sweden is in the process of decommissioning the Oskarshamn NPP due to high taxes on atomic energy and has plans to import cheap electricity from other countries.

Therefore, some experts believe that Belarus NPP will be a boon for Sweden. Known energy consultant Harald Klomp in a recent interview to a Lithuanian media outlet ‘Lietuvos rytas’ has noted that after the closure of nuclear power plants in the southern half of Sweden, the country may face energy deficit and may need to import the electricity from Belarus.

‘Closure of E.ON and Vattenfall NPPs will increase the power deficit in south Sweden to 9 GW, because of that Sweden may have to import the electricity via NordBalt cable’ (cable that connects Lithuania and Sweden), said the expert responding to the question about his opinion why the Sweden may have to use cheap energy imports from Belarus.

The final cost of electricity is important for the consumer. In conditions of shortage of electricity in Eastern Europe Belarusian NPP can do a good job throughout the European Union.