15 June 2021, Tuesday, 15:14
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Hearings on BelNPP: Authorities Classified Important Information

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Hearings on BelNPP: Authorities Classified Important Information

Will the station be able to operate at full capacity for 15 days?

The authorities held the so-called hearings on the BelNPP. Russian nuclear physicist Andrey Ozharovsky, who was banned from entering Belarus for a long time, took part in them and told Charter97.org why he considers such events to be a dummy.

- There was no discussion, as well as hearings. A meeting was organized in which we were indeed allowed to take part. The main goal, apparently, was to support the issuance of a license for the nuclear power plant. On the positive side, it should be noted that, despite the threat of the coronavirus, at least some meeting was held. Some of the hearings were organized remotely. The main studio was in Astravets and other parts of the country, including three studios in Minsk.

Further, everything was very strange because, right during the hearings, official documents were published, but they were not discussed. There were several official speeches, but there was no discussion as such.

They allowed me to speak for four minutes; as compensation for my detention at the previous hearings, I was allowed to speak twice (Andrey was detained during the hearings in 2009 - ed. Charter97.org).

Out of about fifteen speakers, five demanded not to issue a license (myself included) because this is impossible under the current conditions. Unfortunately, representatives of BelNPP were able to answer only a few and refused to answer those that were under the regulations. They even refused to read them, which is a violation of their own rules.

Now, in essence: the unit has been built, getting ready for the start of commercial operation. Now it is in pilot operation, which is a kind of adjustment, elimination of imperfections, and so on. We all know that BelNPP has been shut down several times for experimental industrial operation, this is normal.

At the hearings, it was confirmed that the pilot operation was not completed and now the unit was turned on at full capacity so that it would work for 15 days. Why is it important? Until now, it has been driven in different modes, turned on and off at half power, several times at full power, but it has never worked at full power for more than a week. Now it has to work for 15 days, and it is completely unclear to us whether it will be able to do this.

It is quite possible to assume that another unscheduled shutdown will occur, as it was before, so it was extremely premature to discuss the results of industrial operation, which at best will be clear in mid-May.

Second, the question that was answered. As it turns out, the hearing has nothing to do with making decisions. Belarus pledged to allow public participation in decision-making because the country is a member of the Aarhus Convention, that is, there is an international obligation, which states that the public should be given the opportunity to participate in decision-making on environmental issues. Oddly enough, they repeated several times that the decision has already been made, the license will be issued, and some kind of ceremonial meeting is being prepared.

There was a suspicion that they wanted to do this for some kind of festive event, for example, on May 9th. Maybe our performance thwarted these plans.

I have no explanation why they held this meeting on April 30 and not after the end of 15 days, which is the most important stage. The most unpleasant thing is that this whole meeting (the tongue does not rise to call it hearings) was part of the approval procedure. There was no discussion, no debate. Representatives of the BelNPP themselves said that there is no scenario in which, based on the results of this meeting, they would not issue a license, everything was decided in advance.

- Another imitation of the dialogue.

- Look, if it would be interesting for them to provide information, they probably could answer our questions. I have participated in various hearings both in Russia and in Austria and Ukraine many times. They always try to answer questions.

They refused to answer about half of the questions, violating their own rules. This is strong evidence that they were not going to provide the information that the public was asking for. In their speeches, representatives of the BelNPP constantly muttered that the nuclear power plant was safe, however, this was not information but propaganda. To call the nuclear power plant safe is simply illiterate. This is a radiation hazardous facility. At least, this is generally accepted in Russia according to regulatory documents.

There were many smaller questions, but also very important ones. The hearings were announced five days in advance: why such a sprint, why such a rush? If they wanted normal discussions, they could have announced a little in advance.

They also forbade (for some reason exclusively to me) to record audio and video, although the regulations say that recording is being made during the hearings. Why is it important? Then we could post a video, you would see the environment in which it all took place. Apparently, they have something to hide. For me, it is very strange because there can be nothing secret by definition at the hearings.

All this shows that they did not want to conduct any kind of dialogue. I was interested in the issues of radioactive waste of spent fuel and gas-aerosol emissions. They decided not to give figures.

I note that it is very interesting that, in the reports (after all, they said something for these two hours), there was not a continuous stream of propaganda, it was said that more than 100 scenarios of accidents and incidents were considered. I asked to read out these 100 scenarios, it's just interesting: scenario such and such, release such and such.

This is important; nevertheless, they say that, for Belarus, which suffered the most from the Chernobyl accident, any radiation exposure is unacceptable. There will be nowhere to live, now, there is not enough space. They did not answer this question.

There was a question that BelNPP has a very flimsy protective shell, which can only withstand the fall of an airplane weighing 5.7 tons, An-2 maize. They also refused to discuss this.

- In 2015, there were hearings in Russia on the Leningrad NPP, which provided not only data on emissions, but also maps of their possible impact. Why are Belarusian nuclear scientists hiding this information?

- They are lying, and we are right, the Belarusian Anti-Nuclear Campaign. We said from the very beginning that the station is dangerous, the risk is great and unacceptable. Why did this information appear in Russia in 2015? Maybe they overlooked or accidentally told the truth.

As a Russian engineer, it is easy for me to compare the same project. We are dealing with the same VVER-1200 reactor.

In the Leningrad NPP, a list of emitted substances was given, there were at least five of them. I think it was very easy for Belarusians to copy the assessment from the Russians.

I would like to note that there is more respect for the environmental movement in Russia. It is necessary to understand that it is not easy for the Leningrad NPP to admit it, and this is a long and painstaking work of the country's environmental movement to ensure that the atomic lobbyists stop lying in their texts.

With respect to the Belarusian civil society, but things are not going well. You should agree that you have to be either a fool or too brave a person to continue to violate the convention. After all, an investigation by the Aarhus Convention will follow. There will be questions such as why you were not able to let the public participate in the decision making?

I see that the Belarusian nuclear scientists have done a stupid thing, my task is to give them advice. If they want to fix something, then, of course, they must schedule a new hearing. Only then can it be discussed whether such a power unit should be given a license.

If a license is issued, it will be issued without regard to public opinion. The meeting took place, but it was purely informational; however, they could not fulfill this task either. At least, they said: "We are informing you, sit and listen." Now hold not an "informational" meeting but in which there will be a normal discussion according to normal rules. For some reason, my computer was taken away and then returned, that is, there were also attempts at such forceful pressure.

- You have already touched upon the topic of the reactor at the BelNPP. The area of its impact after the accident is more than 1000 kilometers. Why is this fact so often hushed up?

- Atomic workers lie and even deny the danger. It is important to understand what Belarus is facing, and any understatement leads to the fact that disasters like the Chernobyl one may repeat themselves.

Moreover, denial of the hazard leads to unavailability of the elimination of consequences in the event of an accident. Are there plans to evacuate the town of Astravets? I know that the Lithuanian side is serious about this, distributing at least iodine preparations in the 50-kilometer zone. We see the prerequisites not for the fact that an accident will occur, there is a small probability, but for the fact that the protection of the population from radiation will be unprepared. If we say that the plant is safe, then why get ready to minimize the consequences of an accident?

- Another aspect is the life of people near the nuclear power plant. How does it affect health?

- Here you need to refer to the German government study KiKK, a study of cancer in children near nuclear power plants. Germany has a very serious cancer registry, which takes into account the place of residence and the distance to the operating reactor. There are many small towns, farmsteads and so on within a radius of 50 kilometers because they also believed that everything was safe there. The results showed that the number of people with leukemia under the age of five more than doubled. There is no other way to explain this, children did not have any other differences, except for the factor of proximity to the nuclear power plant.

We will not discuss the impacts of accidents, it seems to me that this is obvious. Belarusians are well aware of what impacts can be in case of accidents. The radiation flew two hundred kilometers to the Mahiliou region. Recently I went to Nalibokskaya Pushcha, there are also two spots there. I personally saw that the devices show the consequences that happened 35 years ago.

If the nuclear power plant operates without accidents (this is quite possible), then there is a risk for those who live 50 kilometers from the BelNPP. Moreover, there is a huge problem of radioactive waste. We will have to build more than one repository: a separate one is needed for each type of waste. At best, they will be there for 300 years, and at worst, for centuries.

This can also have an impact because there are cases when burial grounds are flowing.

The problem will get worse every year. The situation does not depend at all on whether the reactor itself explodes or not, this is a different kind of danger and serious problems that Belarus does not need.

- There is a consensus among the democratic forces that, in free Belarus, it is necessary to abandon the use of the BelNPP. Is it possible to reorient the current nuclear power plant, to use it in a different capacity in order to somehow compensate for the costs of its construction?

- Of course not, this is money thrown away; there was a joking proposal, when the reactor was dropped, to use it as a moonshine still. Nothing useful can be done from a nuclear power plant. In any case, it will be closed, maybe at the end of its service life or as a result of a serious accident.

However, it is absolutely certain that, if the license is issued, then Belarus will pay Rosatom. There is a very strange intergovernmental agreement, which states that Belarus must begin to repay the loan within two years from the time of commissioning. This is such a strange legal confusion. Yes, now everything is working there, the NPP is in experimental-industrial operation, but legally this facility is not included in the number of operating ones. Such a trial period.

We talked about this at the hearings: don't issue a license and sort it out further. Now it is clear to everyone that the power plant is not needed for the economy, electricity will not be exported anywhere, and it is impossible to use Lithuanian hydraulic structures to regulate the unreliability of the nuclear power plant. We have to give orders to enterprises so that they increase their energy consumption, do all sorts of other stupid things. For example - transfer of heating of housing from gas to electric. These are strange, and most importantly, dangerous things.

Now one of the good moments when the economic issue can be resolved is not to issue a license, but they decided not to listen to the public's opinion. As far as I understand, Rosatom's agents in the leadership of the BelNPP, who praised the Rosatom plant, did not read a single critical study. Believe me, there are quite a few scientific studies in Europe that show that VVER-1200 reactors are just as dangerous as others, for example, flexRisk cards. I spoke about this in my speech, but there are other studies, not only Rosatom's ones. It needs to be shown to people.