Bangladesh government on December 25, 2015 signed US$ 12.65 billion general contract with Russian company JSC Atomostroyexport for a 2400 MW nuclear power plant at Rooppur in Pabna.
This will be the largest single project in the Bangladesh public sector. After Padma Bridge Rooppur power plant when constructed will become another dream come true for Bangladesh.
It is a brave decision and government deserves accolade for launching another milestone project for achieving sustainable energy security on its mission for reaching developed economy status by 2041.
Bangladesh for maintaining its impressive economic development urgently requires fuel diversification as the proven recoverable reserve its own major primary fuel natural gas is fast depleting.
For various reasons Bangladesh appears reluctant in exploring and exploiting substantial coal resource. Importing coal, gas and other fuel has to overcome various issues and challenges.
Moreover, nuclear power is among the cleanest form of energy with zero emission. Although carbon foot print of Bangladesh is bare minimum now yet it cannot go for huge emission in power generation using dirty polluting fossil fuels as it is also among the most vulnerable country in the context of global warming from greenhouse gas (GHG) emission.
The contract provides for implementing the project in two phases. The first unit of 1200 MW will be commissioned by October 2023 and the second unit of 1200 MW will be completed by October 2024.
Russian government will finance 90 percent of the cost of 2400 MW power plant in the form of long term concessional loan to Bangladesh government.
Russian company with design, construct and commission the plants and will assist Bangladesh in all manners in developing competent human resources for operating the plant.
Well proven VVER 1200 nuclear power generation technology to be used for the plant is believed to be safest.
However, before getting license for construction of the plant needs to get through very intensive quality protocol set by International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA).
At all stage from design to commissioning will come under strict monitoring by authorized representatives of IAEA.
Russian company will provide processed Uranium required for generating power in nuclear reactors.
The nuclear waste generated from the plant will also be taken away for safe disposal.
The location at Rooppur beside Padma River was selected as ideal location for nuclear power plant in 1960s.
The location was elected for many considerations. It is not anywhere near any geological fault for vulnerability to major earthquake.
It has easy accessibility to nearby river for supplying cooling water required for nuclear reaction that generates heat.
Moreover, giant nuclear reactors can be easily transported to site on the waterways. At the initial stage of the project development extensively feasibility studies have evidenced that an exhaustive risk matrix has been developed.
All risks have been identified, assessed and risk management strategies have been developed. Though over the years Padma has lost a lot of its puberty still it retains enough water in the leanest period for meeting the requirement of Rooppur plant.
For additional safety enough standby provisions will be made through drilling deep tube wells.
Nuclear wastes will primarily be stored in safe storage and will be disposed of at regular interval by the Russian companies.
An extensive human resource development plan has also been adopted for training and capacity building of Bangladeshi professionals.
We have observed that a section of civil society and Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) have raised some concerns about the safety Rooppur power plant. Nuclear power plants are among the safest and the more environment friendly power generation units.
Russians are the world leaders. Several Russian nuclear power plants are being safely operated in different countries. Many countries including Pakistan is operating nuclear plant safely. India and China are going big for it.
The three major nuclear power plant disasters have happened either for natural causes (massive earthquake and Tsunami) or poor design and construction flaws. Various studies have suggested that there are no concerns of major earthquake or Tsunamis at Rooppur.
IAEA and Russian government regulators will ensure that the design is full proof and construction meets all strangest quality assurances.
We must rely on brilliant Bangladeshi technical and managerial manpower for operation and maintenance of the plant.
It will smart on behalf of Rooppur project management to keep people informed about various stages of project development, risks management for dispelling all doubts and confusions created by less informed persons.
Saleque Sufi is an energy expert.