As the 13th largest importer of natural gas for energy, Belarus has been striving to develop a more secure and sustainable energy source for a long time. In 2007, a decision by the Government of Belarus put the country on the path to introduce nuclear power, with the aim to start up the first unit of a two unit nuclear power reactor by 2016. A nuclear power programme is a major undertaking that requires careful planning, preparation and investment in time and human resources. The commitment to such a programme requires the establishment of a sustainable national infrastructure that will provide governmental, legal, regulatory, managerial, technological, human and industrial support for a nuclear programme throughout its life cycle.
Belarus has been preparing for the introduction of a nuclear power programme with the support of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Expertise, training and equipment is being provided through the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme. The IAEA’s Department of Technical Cooperation is also working closely with the European Commission in order to optimize and coordinate assistance efforts for the introduction of nuclear power and the development of a sustainable energy system in Belarus.
IAEA assistance to date has included:
- the review, analysis and definition of scenarios for the integration of a nuclear power plant in the existing power supply system
- a review of site selection and evaluation requirements
- the development of human resources for the nuclear power programme, and
- professional development for lecturers and instructors involved in education, training and professional upgrades for specialists.
In February 2010, policy-makers from several Belarusian Ministries and high level staff from the State Security Committee, the National Academy of Science and the Belarus nuclear regulatory body, together with staff from the IAEA Departments of Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Safety and Security, Technical Cooperation and Safeguards, attended a one-day seminar to discuss considerations for launching a nuclear power programme and to facilitate the assessment of progress towards the development of an adequate nuclear power infrastructure. The seminar included a round table discussion on an integrated approach to the development of infrastructure for a nuclear power programme in Belarus.
Seminars like these help to raise the awareness of policy makers on what it means to introduce nuclear power to a country, encourage high level officials to provide appropriate support, and build understanding of the priorities of the country at the government level. Understanding at this level facilitates collaboration among decision makers and makes an integrated approach to the development of sustainable energy systems manageable.
The seminar and the round table discussion focused on the IAEA’s milestone document, No.NG-G3.1, Milestones in the Development of a National Infrastructure for Nuclear Power, which addresses the introduction of a nuclear power programme. The advice and information provided by the IAEA was greatly appreciated by the Belarusian attendees. The seminar gave decision makers the opportunity to examine potential gaps in the development of their nuclear programme and helped to identify where further support from the IAEA can help Belarus achieve its sustainable energy goals.