Rise of Ostrovets in the wake of BelNPP construction

A gymnasium and a new school, four kindergartens, a multifunctional sports complex and Central District Hospital... This is not the whole list of social facilities that have been built in Ostrovets since the construction of the Belarusian NPP was launched. For the past 11 years, the town has grown prettier and busier. Today, locals fully enjoy the benefits of living in the city of nuclear scientists. By the way, since 2011, the population of Ostrovets has grown from 8,000 to almost 15,000. All this is the result of hosting the Belarusian NPP which has given a new impetus to the town. Ostrovets has turned from a small town into the nuclear capital of Belarus. BelTA correspondents went to see how the town is doing.

Next year, Ostrovets will celebrate its 555th birthday. The decision to build the Belarusian nuclear power plant in cooperation with Russia marked a new milestone in the life of the town. The engineering division of Rosatom is the general designer and general contractor of the NPP project. Much attention is paid to improving the quality of life in the district. A number of social and cultural, sports and education projects have been implemented with the participation of the Russian side. The experience of Russian cities hosting nuclear power plants has also been studied.

A family of power engineer moved from Novolukoml to Ostrovets

Svetlana Shushkevich moved to Ostrovets with her family in 2017 when her husband, an engineer at Novolukoml state district power plant, was offered a job at the Belarusian NPP. The family decided to take the move. Svetlana got a job at the Belarusian nuclear power plant too. She is in charge of ideological work at BelNPP. She used to work in the education sector. Svetlana does not regret the switch of profession although she misses communication with children. But at the Belarusian NPP, she has a chance to reconnect with her previous profession as she hosts children on tour around the nuclear power plant. Young people who come to work at the plant are also in the purview of her duties.

Svetlana said that the move was easy for the family. "The conditions were excellent. We immediately got a rental three-room apartment. We have two children, and they got places in school. The town leaves pleasant impression. Construction and development are almost everywhere. The city is growing fast. For young people, there are centers of arts and sports facilities. Healthcare is top-notch here," the woman noted. The family is not planning to return to the hometown in Vitebsk Oblast. "Here, in Ostrovets, the standards of living are high, the work is good. Although our relatives live there, we keep in touch and visit each other. Fortunately this is not far away. The main thing is that we live in our beloved Belarus," Svetlana said.

'More opportunities for everyone'. How do residents of Ostrovets become sport enthusiasts?

During the day the local multifunctional sports complex is not as crowded as it is in the evenings. Every day the complex is visited by about a hundred people. One of the regulars is Kazimir Shymansky. “I go to the gym twice a week. The gym is very well equipped, there are enough exercise machines here. It is better to come here in the daytime, because in the evening it is too crowded. And considering that I work in shifts, it is very convenient for me. Regular workouts make me feel great,” the man said after completing his treadmill routine.

Yulia Moteka brought her two kids for an individual training session in another room. According to her, when the weather became too cold for outdoor activities, they decided to change the setting. “Today we have come for the first training session with our kids. Let's see how they will feel about it, what they will like. The eldest child often swims in the pool here,” said the young mother.

She added: “When the complex opened, more leisure activities became available for local people, including young people, older people, children and young mothers. We can come here to dine out and play sports, relax. There is a large choice of things to do. There was a lack of such big sports facilities in our town. This complex is very comfortable and well-equipped; there are individual and group classes; and the location is good, so the complex is accessible to everyone.”

Indeed, the complex is more than 5,700 m2 big; absolutely everyone can find here something to do. Classes for seniors are held in the multi-purpose gym. “We go to classes three times a week. We spend our time in an interesting and active way: we swim, do our fitness routine in the gym and play group sports. Members of our class have become good friends. Therefore, it's nice to come here and you do not want to miss classes,” Aleksandr Alkhovik said. “We consider ourselves young pensioners. We are of a different age: someone is older, someone is younger. But we all love sports, and if earlier it was difficult for someone to climb the stairs, now everyone is full of beans due to our fitness routines!” he added.

“Classes are free for seniors. They can do any sports until 3 pm. However, local residents are true sports enthusiasts. They continue training here after 3 pm. In total, we have 29 groups: 20 children's groups and 9 adults' groups. We offer cheerleading, stretching, pilates, football, volleyball, basketball. We have 12 swimming groups. Every day after 5 pm we have a full house,” said Andrei Trishin, Deputy Director For Infrastructure at the Ostrovets sports complex Impulse.

Full-cycle medical care: From diagnostics to rehabilitation

Opened in 2020, the Ostrovets Central District Hospital has become a big healthcare facility with modern equipment and highly qualified personnel. “The hospital employs 185 doctors (28% of them are young specialists), 445 nurses (12% are young people). Thus, we benefit from a combination of youth and experience. We are the most striking example of a multifunctional medical facility. We can offer good diagnostics services, highly specialized tertiary care, as well as rehabilitation. We provide full-cycle medical care,” said Vladimir Mozheiko, Chief Physician of the Ostrovets Central District Hospital.

The chief physician adds: “At the Novovoronezh nuclear power plant, there are, for example, recreation centers to improve health of nuclear plant employees. We, in Belarus, have decided to go our own way. The hospital provides conditions for treatment and rehabilitation of those who work at hazardous production. We are ready for this, we have all necessary conditions. What has been built here must be accessible to all.”

The interdistrict departments provide assistance to residents of Ostrovets District and nearby regions of Grodno Oblast. Three interregional departments provide necessary services to the residents of Postavy District of Vitebsk Oblast and Vileika and Myadel districts of Minsk Oblast. The number of patients, who are treated in these departments but do not reside in Ostrovets District, reaches 80%.

Ice arena, film and concert hall. What new services will Ostrovets residents soon have?

“There is a great mixed-use cultural center in Ostrovets. The film and concert hall is under renovation. The construction of an ice arena is on the home stretch. Residents of the district and nearby areas will have a great opportunity to skate and play hockey. Not every town can boast such a facility. Today the nearest ice arena is 80km away - in Molodechno,” said Deputy Chairman of Ostrovets District Executive Committee Gennady Bychko.

Within a month or two, red ribbons will be cut twice in Ostrovets. The old hospital building is currently under reconstruction. It will be upgraded into a clinic. The first start-up complex will be commissioned in late 2022-early 2023.

Housing issue

About 320,000 square meters of housing have been built in Ostrovets during the construction of BelNPP. “Two 59-apartment houses were built and included in the rental housing fund. Some apartments are used as dormitories when necessary. One room is for one person. If a person starts a family or have more children, it is possible to expand the housing area. We are doing our best to address housing issues for young specialists, because we understand that this is important for keeping enough personnel in the area. Housing construction is in full swing. Everybody has an opportunity to get their own apartment,” Gennady Bychko said. Three new houses have been commissioned this year. There are plans to expand the individual housing development in Ostrovets. The neighborhoods have roads and it is possible to provide all necessary connections.

Necessary infrastructure, including stores and retail chains, is developing alongside with housing construction. New roads are built and the existing ones are repaired. “The reconstruction of Oktyabrskaya Street has been completed this year. Volodarskogo Street was opened a year earlier. All road construction in Ostrovets complies with barrier-free environment requirements,” Gennady Bychko added. Repair and construction works will continue, the local authorities said.

BelTA – News from Belarus