IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said Belarus had made impressive progress with its nuclear power programme and welcomed the country’s extensive use of IAEA expert peer review services to help it ensure safety.
At a meeting with President Alexander Lukashenko today, Mr Amano said that such review services by international experts were a valuable tool for helping countries to implement the highest international safety standards and establish effective regulatory systems. Belarus is one of the most advanced nuclear “newcomer countries,” Mr Amano said, and is giving utmost considerations to nuclear safety.
Belarus is constructing its first nuclear power plant at Ostrovets. The first of two 1200 megawatt-electric power reactors is scheduled to be in operation by 2018 and the second by 2020. Mr Amano visited the construction site today. “The IAEA has worked closely with Belarus on all aspects of this major project and will continue to offer every assistance,” he said.
President Lukashenko thanked the IAEA for its support and said that Belarus would continue to request review services from the Agency both during the remainder of the construction phase and also once the reactor became operational. He added that the “safety-first” principle was very important for Belarus, particularly given the country’s experience in the wake of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986.
In meetings with Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei and Minister of Energy Mikhail Mikhadyuk on Monday, Mr Amano said openness and transparency were important for all countries with nuclear power. “Dialogue is essential among operators, regulators and governments, with the general public, with the IAEA, and with other countries,” he said. He commended Belarus for making public the findings of the IAEA’s Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR).
Mr Amano underscored the importance of the partnership between the IAEA and Belarus, not only in nuclear power but also across a broad range of peaceful nuclear applications. He also gave a statement at the opening of the 8th Atomexpo Belarus in Minsk.
Mr Amano welcomed assurances from his hosts that Belarus would in the near future join the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), a key nuclear security agreement that will come into effect on 8 May. The Amendment will make it legally binding for countries to protect nuclear facilities, thereby reducing the risk of a terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant. It will extend the CPPNM’s application to nuclear material in domestic use, storage and transport. Belarus became party to the Convention in June 1993 but has not so far joined the Amendment.
Mr Amano encouraged Belarus to sign an additional protocol to its nuclear safeguards agreement with the IAEA as soon as possible. The additional protocol is a powerful verification tool that supplements States’ safeguards agreements. It grants the IAEA additional authority to verify that a State is complying with its safeguards obligations, helping to provide greater assurance on the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. Additional protocols are presently in force for 127 States.