Belarus's second unit reaches first criticality

27 March 2023

The Belarus Nuclear Power Plant's unit 2 has reached the minimum controllable power level with a self-sustaining controlled nuclear reaction.

The first unit was connected to the grid in November 2020 (Image: Bel NPP)

The Ministry of Energy of Belarus posted on its Telegram channel: "The unit's reactor plant was brought to the minimum controllable power level - 1% of the nominal one. From that moment, the life cycle of the reactor plant began: as the nuclear scientists say, the 'heart' of the reactor began to beat."

It said that the launch of the chain reaction came after a large amount of testing as part of the commissioning process to ensure the new unit complied with all safety requirements.

Russia's Rosatom, which is building the new unit, said that it is now possible "to proceed to the final part of tests of the power unit physical start-up stage. To confirm compliance with the design and clarify the rated neutron and physical characteristics of the reactor first fuel loading, the specialists will take measurements of the actual state of the core. Reliability of functioning of protections, interlocking and the entire nuclear physical control and nuclear safety systems of the reactor plant will also be checked".

Once these checks and results have been considered by Belarus's nuclear regulator and a start-up permit issued, a gradual increase of the power will begin, with the energy ministry saying the next steps will be to "increase the power of the reactor plant to 40% or more with the first trial connection of the unit to the network and subsequent tests in different modes".

The first power unit of Belarus's nuclear power plant was connected to the grid in November 2020 and, the energy ministry says, once both units - Russian VVER-1200 reactors - are commissioned, the plant will produce about 18.5 TWh of electricity per year, equivalent to 4.5 billion cubic metres of natural gas, with an annual effect on the country's economy of about USD550 million.

Earlier this month, Energy Minister Viktor Karankevich said the aim was for the second unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant's first trial connection to the network to take place in April and for it to be put into commercial operation in October 2023.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News