Belarus should make full IAEA mission reports public and implement all expert recommendations

Date

2020 05 21

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By publishing only a summary of the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Pre-Operational Safety Review Team (Pre-OSART) mission, and not the full report, Belarus has once again demonstrated a selective approach to the transparency of the Astravets Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) project and, at the same time, to nuclear safety at the Astravets NPP.

Lithuania has consistently taken the position that Belarus should publish the full reports of all IAEA missions and – before the Astravets NPP is commissioned – implement the recommendations put forth by international experts in these reports and during stress tests, and resolve all other environmental and nuclear safety issues related to the implementation of the Belarusian NPP project under construction in Astravets.

It should be noted that on 8 May, Minister of Energy Žygimantas Vaičiūnas appealed to IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, drawing attention to the fact that Belarus has not made the reports of the IAEA missions in Belarus public, and reports on the implementation of the recommendations of these missions have not been published either.

The document released by Belarus this week does not, in principle, provide any more information about the IAEA pre-OSART mission and its outcomes than the IAEA press release published in August 2019. The document released by Belarus does not contain any information that would make it possible to assess the scale of the existing problems at the Astravets NPP or that would answer the question as to why IAEA experts gave specific recommendations to the operator of the Astravets NPP, state enterprise Belarusian Nuclear Power, which is responsible for the nuclear safety of this power plant. The fact that IAEA experts gave 11 recommendations but only three were named raises even more doubts about transparency.

The decision not to publish the pre-OSART mission report only reinforces suspicions that the shortcomings identified in the mission report are significant. Of particular concern is the IAEA team’s recommendation calling on the operator of the Astravets NPP to enhance monitoring and supervision of the commissioning programme in order to ensure that the operator is properly prepared for the safe operation of the nuclear power plant. Mistakes in the pre-commissioning phase of a nuclear power plant can lead to additional threats to the safety of the nuclear power plant after its commissioning.

The full reports for the IAEA missions conducted in August 2019 and February 2020 have yet to be made public, and the reports on implementation of the recommendations of these missions have not been published either. The fact that Belarus refuses to make them public is hindering the transparent evaluation of the IAEA missions and their outcomes.

Such a selective and biased attitude on the part of Belarus to only disclose information that is useful for the Astravets NPP project is constantly being observed, especially in their cooperation with the IAEA, with the most striking example of this being the IAEA Site and External Events Design (SEED) mission that was conducted in Belarus in 2017. Belarus has chosen to carry out only part of the SEED mission recommendations, ignoring key issues raised by Lithuania regarding the criteria for the assessment and selection of nuclear power plant sites, such as population density and distribution, as well as related emergency preparedness, seismic assessment, and environmental impact assessment.