Nuclear Energy in Belarus (02.08.2023)

An NPP with two V-491-type VVER-1200 reactors is being built near the town of Astrawez; the first unit has been operating commercially since June 2021, and the second is scheduled to start commercial operation at the end of this year.

• Together, the two units are expected to account for about one-quarter to one-third of the electricity demand of the heavily import-dependent country.

Status quo of power generation

KKW und Strommix Belarus
KKW und Strommix Belarus

The figures reflect the country's strong energy dependence: 90% of electricity is produced from natural gas, which comes exclusively from Russia.

The Astravets site (the (Bela)Russian variant “Ostrovets” is more common among experts) in the region of the same name in the west of the country was finally chosen in 2009. Initial considerations had already been made in the early 1980s, but these plans were put on hold for a long time after the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl - no country was as badly affected by the consequences as Belarus.

Astrawez now has two VVER-1200 units, one of which has been in commercial operation since June 2021; the second is expected to follow in October 2023. Both units were built by the Russian state-owned company Atomstroyexport, and funding for their construction also came from Russia.

Assuming high availability of the two units, they could produce up to 50 % of the 35 TWh of electricity that the country consumes each year.

Political and legal framework

Nuclear power is an important instrument for reducing the country's energy dependence and diversifying energy sources: The share of gas in the production of electricity and thermal energy is to be reduced from 90 to 50 % by 2035, according to a Council of Ministers decree dating from 2015.

On 30 July 2008, Law No. 426-Z "On the Use of Nuclear Power" was adopted in Belarus. Together with Law No. 198-Z "On Radiation Protection" adopted on 18 June 2019, it forms the legal basis for the development of nuclear safety and radiation protection in the Republic of Belarus. For historical reasons, the nuclear regulatory framework in Belarus is based on the Russian nuclear regulatory framework.

As the Astrawez site is only about 60 km from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, there is considerable political opposition from Lithuania to the NPP.

Current plans and projects

NPPs in Belarus
KKW in Belarus

Large NPPs. The main decisions on the construction of the NPP were taken by presidential decree in 2007. In 2009, a decision was made on the siting and construction of two Russian VVER-1200/V-491 NPP units. This is a Generation 3+ NPP, the reference unit of which is in operation at the Leningrad II NPP. Pre-construction work started in 2012, and after the 2013-2014 nuclear construction licences, construction of the two units took place.

Unit 1 has been in commercial operation since June 2021, with Unit 2 to follow by the end of 2023.  Currently, there are no plans for the construction of further NPPs.

Research reactors

According to the IAEA, three research reactors are currently in operation. These are located in the country's most important nuclear research centre, the Institute of Power Engineering Problems in the Minsk suburb of Sosny.