Belarus, Rosatom covered up incidents at Astravyets N-plant – Lithuanian intelligence

  • 2023-03-09
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Russia's nuclear energy giant Rosatom is unable to ensure the reliability and safety of its technologies, as shown by last year's incidents at Belarus' Astravyets nuclear power plant (BelNPP) which threaten Lithuania's nuclear safety and national security, according to the country's intelligence agencies. 

"Rosatom tries to retain position in the nuclear energy market; however, according to intelligence, the technologies it provides are defective," contrary to the corporation's claims that they meet high nuclear safety standards, the State Security Department and the Second Investigations Department under the Defense Ministry said in their annual national security threat assessment report published on Thursday.  

"Available intelligence suggests that Belarus and Rosatom have withheld information on the incidents that occurred in the BelNPP as well as the defects that were identified in the systems of the reactors," they said. 

In April last year, the Astravyets plant's Unit One was shut down for scheduled maintenance, but the defects found during it were not reported, according to the agencies.

"In May 2022, BelNPP control systems of Unit 1 detected cracks in the welding treads of the upper woodruff keys of the reactor pressure vessel. Informally, experts assessed that in order to fix the defects properly, it would be necessary to dismantle the reactor; however, such solution was not considered due to political reasons," they said. 

The launch of Unit 2, scheduled for 2022, was delayed due to technical issues, according to the report. 

"In February (2022), changes in the chemical composition of the water circulating in the reactor's primary circuit were identified – the water was contaminated with resin. It was imperative to clean the pipes of the primary circuit mechanically and unload the nuclear fuel assemblies. The nuclear fuel assemblies were unloaded, cleaned, some of them had to be replaced with the new ones."

"It is highly likely that new technical defects will continue to be detected in the BelNPP even after the launch of Unit 2."

The agencies also said that Rosatom has an ambition to expand its foreign operations and create dependence its technologies and that the corporation's management "usually takes the interests of Russia's political leadership into consideration". 

Rosatom "has been implementing nuclear energy projects abroad by building and

servicing nuclear power plants and supplying uranium products" and thus "not only contributes to Russia’s national budget and finances the growth of the country’s military capabilities but also helps to project Russia’s political influence abroad", according to the report.