Bangladesh will move a step closer to becoming the 33rd nuclear power-generating country tomorrow when construction starts on the main phase of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant - seven years after the framework agreement was signed with Russia.
The Rooppur plant is expected to add 2,400MW of electricity to the national grid by 2024, helping the country to meet an increasing demand for electricity.
The project is being implemented by the state-run Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) under the Science and Technology Ministry, with financial, technical and technological support given by Russia through its state nuclear agency, Rosatom.
Science and Technology Ministry Secretary Md Anwar Hossain told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will officially inaugurate the construction of the power plant on November 30 (Thursday).
“All necessary steps have been taken for the inauguration of the first concrete pouring ceremony,” he said, adding that the premier will be joined by Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev and government high-ups from both countries.
As of November 2016, 450 nuclear power plants in 30 countries worldwide were providing around 12% of the world's electricity supply, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Anwar Hossain said Bangladesh will follow United Arab Emirates and Belarus, which are both constructing nuclear power plants with operational dates slated for 2018 and 2019 respectively, bringing the worldwide total of nuclear-producing countries to 33.
“Considering the limited local resources and compared to the high cost of imported fuel for fuel-based projects, the nuclear power plant will cost less,” the ministry secretary said.
Bangladesh signed the general contract with Russia on December 25, 2015 for the construction and commissioning of the plant in Rooppur upazila, Pabna, on the east bank of Padma River.
Anwar Hossain said: “We expect to complete the work of the project’s main phase on time. We are also optimistic about kicking off power generation from the plant's first unit by 2023.”
Rooppur plant project director, Mohammad Shawkat Akbar, said nuclear power was positioned as an important base-load power source.
“It is a safer, secured and responsible technology for ensured energy supply and reducing carbon dioxide emission. Nuclear power will also contribute to the diversification of electricity resources,” he said.
Shawkat also said an inter-governmental agreement between Bangladesh and India on cooperation in peaceful use of nuclear energy has been signed.
In addition, on April 8 this year an interagency agreement was signed by the Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP), BAEC and India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), to promote cooperation regarding nuclear power plant projects in Bangladesh.
According to this agreement, the DAE through GCNEP would provide training services to BAEC personnel for supervision of design, construction, commissioning, quality assurance, operation and other related activities of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant Project.
Science and Technology Minister Yeafesh Osman said: “We have given the utmost priority on diversified fuel mix and integration of new technologies to provide safe, reliable, cost effective and value for money electricity on a long-term basis.”
Although the government has maintained that the plant will have state-of-the-art safety measures, many in Bangladesh have expressed concern following the horrifying aftermaths of accidents in nuclear plants around the world.