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Friday, 27 July 2018

Perspectives of our atom

Written by

General Director of BelNPP Mikhail Filimonov - about stress tests, guests on the construction site and personnel issues

The current year in the history of the country's main construction site is significant for many reasons. Firstly, because there are too many important steps in the schedule: both the safety check of the station on stress tests, and the delivery of the first fuel. Secondly, this year the construction celebrates its fifth anniversary as the All-Belarusian youth one. The assistance of students in the construction of a strategic facility, as well as the experts' opinions on the safety of BelNPP and the staffing of the plant was told in an interview to "SB" by the General Director of RUE "Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant" Mikhail Filimonov.

A new industry is being created

— Mr. Filimonov, this year BelNPP celebrates its fifth anniversary as the All-Belarusian Youth Construction. How do you assess the participation of students? Are they really helping?

— Of course, I appreciate it positively! The construction movement has a long history, and I myself, as a former member of a student construction team, am a small grain of this story. Construction teams are a great school of future engineers. And it is remarkable that the best students of our universities take part in the construction of the first-born of Belarusian nuclear power engineering. 

Of course, someone might have a question: what can students build at all and what kind of work should they expect from them? But, believe me, there is no reason for such doubts. The construction of a nuclear power plant is strictly regulated. Therefore, there is no talk about the activity of students in especially important facilities, the erection of which implies not only the availability of special knowledge, skills and skills, certain qualifications, but also the corresponding licenses. The guys perform only the work that corresponds to their qualifications. For example, they are engaged in planning and landscaping, ramming, framework lashing and other activities. They cope with this perfectly and render great help in our great deal. 

— BelNPP is not the first plant in your life. The working biography includes Minsk atomic thermal power station, work on the construction of power plants abroad. What is the main difference of the current construction from those on which you worked?

— First of all, it`s the status of the facility and, accordingly, the amount of responsibility assigned to all participants of this project and personally to me, as the head of the enterprise; the President decree entrusts me the function of the customer of the facility and the operating organization of the plant. 

The construction of BelNPP is not just the construction of a new enterprise. In fact, along with this, the country is creating a new industry - nuclear power. And this includes new technologies, modern engineering solutions, scientific support, training of specialists...

And also - increased public attention to the implementation of this project. Not one of the facility, where I worked, attracted such public and media interest as it is now. And besides this interest, there is also a professional one: from ministries and departments, international organizations in the field of nuclear power, diplomatic missions. A rare day passes without visits, inspections, technical tours to the construction site and the information center of the NPP. Although we treat this with understanding and are ready to cooperate on the full range of issues.

Under close scrutiny

— Indeed, BelNPP attracts close attention, including by controlling and consulting organizations. Only last year the plant survived about a hundred inspections, including through the IAEA. One more inspection has been recently completed. Whatcommentsweremadeabouttheplant?

— Comprehensive cooperation with the IAEA is our firm and consistent position. For all time, 4 projects of technical cooperation with this organization have already been implemented. The fifth project, entitled "Strengthening the capacity of the operating organization to ensure reliable and safe operation of the NPP" entered the active phase of implementation. 

Seven expert missions have already been made. Last year, a SEED mission to assess the design of the NPP site, taking into account external events, a mission for the management of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel; IAEA mission to support the training of personnel took place. By the way, following the results of the SEED mission, the IAEA experts noted that our country took into account all aspects of safety when choosing a site for the nuclear power plant and ensured the fulfillment of the so-called post-Fukushima requirements.

— While according to the results of recent stress tests, European experts gave a high appraisal of BelNPP and noted the country's desire to create a safe plant, negative statements are still being sent to the plant. What can you say about this?

— Indeed, European experts praised the BelNPP project and confirmed the main conclusions of the Belarusian national report: the station's safety systems were developed taking into account all the external events, the buildings, structures and equipment of the nuclear power plant were designed in accordance with the current regulatory framework, there are safety stocks. We are sincerely grateful to them for this. I stress that this conclusion was drawn by an authorized group of experts from the regulatory bodies of nuclear safety in Austria, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Germany, Lithuania and a number of other countries. And then some media started anyway an arbitrary interpretation of the conclusions of experts began, which sounded from the mouth of journalists, politicians, but not specialists. We are building a safe nuclear power plant. And no one is so interested in its safety and reliability, as we ourselves.

Useful "arrhythmia"

— How is construction going? Do you meet the schedule?

— Works are fully made on all major and auxiliary facilities. The first power unit is in the stage of completing the general construction works and transition to the active phase of installation. The main technological, thermomechanical and electrotechnical equipment is being installed. At certain sites and systems, start-up works started. At the second power unit, general construction, as well as heat and electrical installation work is carried out. In general, the construction is fully provided with the necessary quantity of materials and raw materials for the uninterrupted performance of the assigned tasks.

— There was information that almost all specialists needed to launch the first power unit of BelNPP were recruited. How difficult was it, under the existing high criteria, to pick up the plant's management personnel?

— The process of recruiting, manning and training personnel for the NPP is continuous and depends on the progress of construction and installation work, the timing of the preparation of certain categories of personnel, commissioning and many other. Therefore, the plant`s personnel are recruited for a particular job or study, and plans are adjusted if necessary. Under the current tasks, the plant is staffed by leading specialists who participate in the launch of the first power unit. 

We paid serious attention to the selection of leading personnel, and in most cases our choice was successful. It can be said that the selection of specialists for a new enterprise is always a difficult task. And taking into account the close attention of the public, including international organizations, this work is doubly responsible. Nevertheless, we are coping with it successfully.

— BelNPP, as well as many other nuclear facilities, has a special access regime. Nevertheless, the plant is open to all comers. How many people visited BelNPP during this half-year and how do you treat such visits?

— A rare day goes without visits to BelNPP. Only in the first half of this year almost 1500 people visited the information center of the NPP and on the construction site. How can we treat such visits? Of course, they bring a certain "arrhythmia" in the work schedule of the company. Especially when managers and specialists of leading workshops and divisions are forced to distract from their direct duties and switch to escort, for example, journalists during press tours. However. we understand that this is necessary: the more we talk about the construction of our NPP, the less there will be fears about its functioning in society. It's not a secret that fear, including nuclear energy, is only a consequence of ignorance.

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