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Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh enters the nuclear age

  • Electricity supply from RNPP by 2025 
  • Several security measures to reduce radiation
  • Two more units to be launched 
  • North Bengal to get benefit from RNPP
  • Rooppur area dramatically transformed in seven years
Update : 05 Oct 2023, 11:34 AM

Thursday marks a historic day for Bangladesh as the country formally receives its first batch of nuclear fuel from Russia, a milestone event in the development of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP). This ceremony marks Bangladesh's entry into the global nuclear community, making it the 33rd country worldwide to handle uranium for nuclear energy production.

The formal graduation ceremony is scheduled to take place at the RNPP site, where Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Russian President Vladimir Putin will virtually participate. 

Alongside the formal handover, another shipment of uranium is also set to arrive in Bangladesh on Thursday.

The transformation of the Rooppur region is nothing short of remarkable. Just seven years ago, the area was a barren land next to the mighty Padma River in Pabna District. Today, it is affectionately known as 'Mini-Russia,' thanks to the immense efforts and contributions of nearly 25,000 domestic and foreign engineers and workers, including around 5,000 personnel from Russia and Belarus.

The presence of these foreign workers has not only accelerated the construction of the RNPP but also fostered cultural exchange, with local fruit and vegetable sellers learning Russian to cater to their international colleagues. The project area and its surroundings have been adorned with colourful flags, flowers, and festoons, reflecting the pride and enthusiasm of the local community.

Science and Technology Minister Yeafesh Osman commended the speedy progress of the RNPP, emphasizing that the construction of a nuclear plant typically takes 12 to 15 years, making the completion of the RNPP in just seven to eight years a monumental achievement. He credited Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's leadership and the support of the local population for this success.

Minister Yeafesh Osman also highlighted Bangladesh's election as a member of the governing body of the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) and expressed optimism that the RNPP would contribute significantly to the country's GDP, potentially reaching 2%.

The RNPP will officially receive a fresh batch of uranium from the Russian contractor, ROSATOM at Thursday's ceremony. Science and Technology Minister Architect Yeafesh Osman will preside over the function, with Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), participating via video conference. Alexei Likhachev, Director General of ROSATOM, Russian Federation, will be on-site to hand over the fuel officially to the RNPP project authority.

The first batch of uranium, the nuclear fuel for the first unit of the RNPP, arrived in Bangladesh last week. According to RNPP officials, 163 fuel assemblies are required for each unit.

In terms of electricity generation, Minister Yeafesh Osman indicated that power from RNPP would be available to the public by early 2025, with a focus on benefiting the underprivileged population of North Bengal. Trial production will commence once additional infrastructure, including transmission lines, is in place, and full commercial production is expected approximately ten months later.

Addressing security concerns, RNPP Project Director Dr M Shawkat Akbar assured that multiple security levels have been implemented, each requiring IAEA approval. He emphasized that radiation levels will remain within safe limits and that 23 radiation stations will provide real-time monitoring for the public. Trained manpower is prepared to ensure safety and security throughout the plant's operations.

Regarding loan repayment, the Project Director clarified that installment payments would commence after two years of commercial production of the second unit. The project's total cost stands at approximately BDT one lakh 14 thousand crores, with Russia financing 90% of the cost, repayable over 28 years.

In line with the government's ambition to obtain 40% of its total electricity from clean energy by 2041, plans are underway to construct two additional nuclear power plant units in Rooppur, demonstrating Bangladesh's commitment to sustainable energy production.

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