1st reactor of Belarus’ Astravets nuclear power plant achieves criticality

The first of two Russia-built reactors at the Belarusian nuclear power plant has reached criticality. Its Baltic neighbors pledged to stop electricity trade when the plant launched.

The Astravets nuclear power plant (known in Belarus as BelAes) is a joint project with Russia’s state atomic energy corporation, Rosatom. On Sunday, the first chain reaction was launched at one of the VVER-1200 type reactors and sustained at the minimum controlled power level, Belarus’ energy ministry reported.

The reactor is expected to pass through several tests before becoming fully operational and start supplying electricity to the power grid sometime next year.

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The nuclear project is fiercely opposed to by the three Baltic states, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The power plant is located in northwestern Belarus some 20km from the Lithuanian border and 50km from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. The EU member has been treating it as a major security threat since the inception of the project.

In late August, Lithuania and its Baltic allies reached an agreement, under which all their electricity trade with Belarus would stop after the plant launched. The countries are planning to introduce a system certifying the origin of the electricity.

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