The Belarusian government has approved a draft contract for the country's first nuclear power plant. Soon to be signed with Russia's Atomstroyexport (ASE), it calls for construction of the two-unit plant to begin by the end of next year.

Deputy energy minister Mikhail Mikhadyuk introduced the draft of the general contract to the Belarus Council of Ministers yesterday. The general contract defines the obligations and responsibilities of both the supplier and the customer, the timing of the project, its estimated cost up to 2020, payment terms, delivery of equipment, organization of construction, commissioning of the units and other conditions.

Belarus earlier launched a tender for the construction of the plant and invited bids from Rosatom, Areva and Westinghouse-Toshiba. ASE was reportedly the only bidder prepared to proceed and provide financing. The 1200 MWe AES-2006 model VVER pressurized water reactor design, developed by the Saint Petersburg AtomEnergoProekt, has been selected for use at the plant, to be built at Ostrovetsk in the Grodno region. A contractual agreement outlining the principal provisions of the general contract was signed with Rosatom subisidiary ASE in October 2011.

Mikhadyuk told the ministers that a fundamental principle in the drafting of the general contract, as well as the contractual agreement, was that the cost of building the plant should be formulated using the same method as used for the construction of plants in Russia, but using local prices. At the same time, Belarus specified that the cost of building the plant should not exceed the cost of building the Baltic plant in Kaliningrad "under comparable conditions."

Under the terms of the general contract, the architectural design of the two-unit plant is to be completed by May next year, after which it must be approved by the relevant authorities in Russia and Belarus and a construction licence issued. These procedures are expected to take some five to six months, Mikhadyuk told the ministers, and first concrete is expected to be poured in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Belarus has requested that Russia investigates ways to speed up the architectural design, which would help cut the construction time of the plant. The construction time for the first unit is expected to be 60 months after first concrete, with the beginning of the physical start-up and commissioning of the unit due in 2018. The timetable for the second unit will be about 18 months behind it, with commissioning set for July 2020.

Mikhadyuk noted that construction of the nuclear plant will enable Belarus to replace some 5 billion cubic metres of imported natural gas annually while also reducing the cost of electricity, cutting emissions of carbon dioxide by about 10.7 million tonnes and significantly improving the country's energy security, Mikhadyuk said.

Excavation work for the foundation pit of the first reactor at Ostrovetsk is already underway. "At present 500 workers are working on site, with 212 machines employed," Yuri Pustovoi, deputy director of Nizhny Novgorod-based AtomEnergoProekt (AEP) was quoted by the Belta news agency. "By the end of the year the number of workers should reach 1000 people."

AEP director Valery Limarenko said, "We are interested in building Belarus' most important power engineering facility on time and with as many Belarusian companies involved as possible. We invite Belarusian builders to take part in the construction of Russian facilities, in particular, units 3 and 4 of the Rostov nuclear power plant." He added, "It will allow them to accumulate the necessary experience and use it later to build the Belarusian nuclear station."

As many as 34 Belarusian companies have so far registered as potential equipment suppliers for the project, while another 16 are preparing to, Belta reported.
Source: World Nuclear News