The loading of nuclear fuel is expected to be completed by the end of August, Rosatom said in a statement.
The reactor will then run at 1% capacity to test its operation. Once the reactor has been confirmed to operate in accordance with the design parameters and safety regulations, it will be integrated into the Belarusian power system, Rosatom reports.
It has already been reported that the Lithuanian State Atomic Energy Safety Inspectorate (VATESI) received a notification from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Thursday that the transportation of unused nuclear fuel assemblies to the Astravjec NPP has started. VATESI has also been informed about it by the Ministry of Emergencies of Belarus.
As the inspectorate explains, the loading of nuclear fuel assemblies is an important step in the start-up of the first NPP reactor, followed by the next steps: the physical start-up of the reactor, then the power connection and finally also the commercial use.
VATESI emphasizes that the questions asked by Lithuania on nuclear safety and environmental protection have not been answered, nor have the recommendations given to Belarus by IAEA missions and international experts based on the results of stress tests, especially regarding the possibility of extreme seismic events, accident prevention and control.
As Darius Kuliesis, National Security Adviser to President Gitan Nauseda, told Lithuanian Public Radio on Thursday, the Astravjec NPP could become operational no earlier than the end of this year or even the beginning of next year.
Belarus has chosen a site for the construction of its NPP approximately 30 kilometers from the Lithuanian border and 50 kilometers from the Vilnius-Grodno region in the Astravyec district. In addition, it is planned to use water from the Neris River, which then flows through the Lithuanian capital, for cooling purposes.
Minsk claims that the power plant will meet the highest safety standards, but the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko has previously emphasized that the construction of the Astravyez NPP should be as cheap as possible. According to Lithuania, there has been an unfair and widespread reduction in construction costs at the expense of safety.
It is planned that the Astravjec NPP will have two reactors, each with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts. The second reactor is scheduled to start up about a year after the first.
Astravyez NPP is being built by the Russian state corporation Rosatom.