EU Says Belarus Made Progress on Safety at Nuclear Plant

Belarus has made progress on addressing key safety concerns at its new nuclear plant in Astravets, the European Union said in a preliminary report after officials visited the site.

The conclusions are based on documents and information from Belarusian authorities, verified during a February visit to the plant, which is located close to the EU border. A full report will be compiled after a further peer review later this year, and will focus on the EU’s remaining recommendations, according to the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group.

The safety of Astravets moved to the top of the EU political agenda toward the end of last year as Belarus made preparations to start commercial operations at the plant. The European Parliament last month demanded the startup be delayed until all the recommended safety improvements are in place.

EU Says Belarus Made Progress on Safety at Nuclear Plant

The ENSREG trip to the facility was part of a peer review following stress-tests at the plant a few years ago. Belarus’s participation in the EU tests -- devised after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 -- was voluntary.

“A stress-test and the implementation of follow-up actions should not be used to justify or authorize the safe operation of a nuclear power plant,” ENSREG Chair Marta Ziakova said in a statement on Thursday. “Such authorizations have to be in line with the procedures prescribed in national law and under the full responsibility of the national regulatory authorities.”

The Astravets site is just 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, and the country has urged the EU to ensure all the safety recommendations are enforced.

The preliminary report is not a “green light” for starting the commercial operation of the plant, Dainius Kreivys, Lithuanian Minister of Energy, said

“It is clear that the vast majority of the EU recommendations have not been implemented,” he said. “We are confident that all the EU stress tests’ recommendations are important to ensure nuclear safety and therefore all of them, in their entirety, should be urgently implemented by Belarus.”

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