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‘Electricity from nuclear plant in Bangladesh from October 2023’

The incumbent government has decided to produce 10% of the total electricity from nuclear energy by 2021. In a bid to achieve that target, the implementation of the first ever nuclear power plant is going on in a full swing.

Even though the government wants to hit that deadline, practically, it will not be possible to add the electricity from nuclear plant into the national grid before October 2023.

The electricity will be supplied from a 2,400 MW (two units-each 1,200 MW) nuclear power plant in Rooppur in Pabna. Upon implementation, this will be the largest power plant of the country.

Nuclear power is a reliable source for producing electricity. It is possible to produce more than two thousand kilowatts-hour of electricity from just one gram of uranium-235 whereas for producing the same from coal, several tonnes are needed. Besides, the electricity produced from nuclear plant is cheaper than other traditional sources.

However, the security of a highly sophisticated establishment like a nuclear power plant is of paramount importance.

If reactor security and safety can be ensured fully and an able human resource can be developed to run the plant, then the Rooppur plant will appear as a blessing for the country. Otherwise, it will be a pinnacle of disaster for Bangladesh.

Aminur Rahman, Editor of energynewsbd.com recently talked with Yeafesh Osman, Minister for Science and Technology Ministry who is also considered as one of the key persons behind this implementation of the nuclear plant.

In an exclusive interview with the online newspaper, Yeafesh Osman talked about how Bangladesh has walked this path of implementing its first ever nuclear plant and what is in stake in future centering the plant.

energynewsbd.com: What is the latest update of the development of Rooppur nuclear power plant?

Yeafesh Osman: The government of Bangladesh had recently signed credit deal worth of $11.385 billion with the government of Russian Federation in July 26 to ensure financing for the project. Earlier, in May 19, the agreement was initiated between the two countries.

With the signing of this credit deal, the formalities for the implementation of the plant are completed. Now the actual work will begin.

energynewsbd.com: What is the history behind the implementation of this historic plant? When will it start producing electricity?

Yeafesh Osman: The construction of the plant will be done in two phases. At present, the work of first phase-which is preparatory stage-is in progress.

  • For the construction of Rooppur Nuclear Power plant, Bangladesh government in November 2, 2011 signed an Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA) with the government of the Russian Federation. After that in January 15, 2013, the Bangladesh government signed a $500 million credit deal and initiated the first phase work for the project.
  • As a continuation of those agreements, a total of four contracts have been signed with Atomstroyexport, the contractor appointed by the Russian Federation.

Under the first and second agreements with Atomstroyexport, hundred percent field works of the project is completed.

In total 80% of the works which was supposed to be completed under the fourth agreement is completed as of now. The rest of the work will be completed within the mid December 2016.

The work of the second phase which is the construction (First concrete) of the main power plant will be start in August 2017.

The provisional takeover of the first unit in experimental basis will take place in October 2023 and the second unit in October 2024. 

The Final Takeover of the first unit will take place in October 2024 and the second unit in October 2025. 

"As per the general agreement, Russia will supply the necessary fuel for the reactor for the first 3-4 years of commissioning and it has been made implicit under the total cost of the agreement." 

energynewsbd.com: How much of the primary works for the plant has been completed till now? What is the amount of money that is being spent and for what purposes? 

Yeafesh Osman: The Bangladesh government has signed a total of four contracts with Atomstroyexport, the contractor fixed by the Russian Federation. 

  • 100% field works under the first agreement has been completed.
  • 100% field works under the second agreement has been completed.
  • About 71% works including the civil construction and erection works of the preparatory stage under the third agreement has been completed.
  • The fourth agreement was signed in January 7, 2015. As per the work schedule, the works under the fourth agreements have already been started. Basing on the progress status, it can be said that it will be completed in due time. 

From the beginning of the project up until June 2015, a total of Tk 4,025 crore has been spent as a part of the preparatory stage of the project. 

The works which were done in the preparatory stages are— 

  • Engineering surveys, environmental impact assessment (EIA) and technical and financial feasibility studies.
  • Finalisation of the design of the nuclear power plant and technical documentation as well as the finalisation of the construction design and working documents.
  • Site development and infrastructural development and all the preparatory works which are being implemented under the third and fourth agreements. 

energynewsbd.com: After the completion and commissioning of the nuclear power plant, will Russian Federation or Bangladesh bear the cost of maintenance and repair cost of the plant? 

Yeafesh Osman: After the completion and commissioning of the Rooppur plant, Bangladesh government has to bear all the maintenance and repair cost of the plant. 

energynewsbd.com: The general agreement of the plant has already been signed? What are the most salient features of the agreement? 

Yeafesh Osman: Bangladesh signed the general agreement with Russian Federation in December 25, 2015. 

The total cost of the agreement is $12.65 billion. Bangladesh will bear 10% which is $1.265 billion and Russian Federation will bear 90% which is $11.385 billion. The works that will be performed under the general contracts are – 

  • The finalisation of the designs of unit-1 and unit-2 of the Rooppur nuclear power plant, their construction and commissioning.
  • Strengthening of soil structure for the foundation of the plant to bear the load.
  • Supply of necessary equipments up to the site.
  • Supply of necessary nuclear fuel for the primary stage.
  • Governing operational and technical aid for the plant from commissioning of the plant to warranty operation stage.
  • Aiding in getting necessary licensing documents for the commissioning and operational activities of the nuclear plant as per the local and international accountability and guidelines.
  • Training of necessary human resources for the operation and maintenance of the nuclear power plant.
  • Construction of the infrastructure needed for the nuclear power plant.
  • Facilitating of the loading/unloading of equipments, construction of berth/jetty and roads up until to that point in the project site.
  • Setting up of infrastructure for radiation observation and emergency situation.
  • Training of the people involved in the construction of the nuclear power plant. 

energynewsbd.com: Russia will supply the necessary fuel for the nuclear reactor. The question is there is no provision about the cost of this fuel in the general agreement. Is there any possibility of having a separate contract for this? 

Yeafesh Osman: As per the inter-state agreement between Bangladesh government and Russian Federation, the latter will supply fuel for nuclear plant up until its life time. 

As per the general agreement, Russia will supply the necessary fuel for the reactor for the first 3-4 years of commissioning and it has been made implicit under the total cost of the agreement. 

However, we will need to sign a separate agreement with Russia for this. We will fix the terms and conditions and later we will sign that accordingly.

"Though the life cycle of this 2,400 MW plant is usually 50 years but it is estimated that it will be able to generate electricity for the next 80 years."

energynewsbd.com: Russia will take care of the spent fuel and they will take that back to their country. Is there going to be a separate agreement for that? Who will bear the cost of that? 

Yeafesh Osman: As per the IGA, Russia will take back the spent nuclear fuel. An attempt has been made to sign a separate IGA for that. The agreement will be signed after the signing of the mentioned Spent Fuel Management IGA. We are having discussion on this. 

energynewsbd.com: What steps are taken to train able human resource to manage this sophisticated establishment? 

Yeafesh Osman: A total of 1,927 persons have been engaged for the plant. As per the general agreement, necessary trainings have been given to them.          

A total of 1,120 persons will be trained from Russian Federation for the handling of licensing works, reactor operation, fuel handling, management of radioactive material and waste management. 

For the administration and other technical works, a total of 807 persons will be trained in Bangladesh by Atomstroyexport, the contractor appointed by the Russian Federation. 

energynewsbd.com: What are the challenges that have been faced since the planning of the plant? What more challenges do you think are looming ahead? 

Yeafesh Osman: For the implantation of capital intensive and highly technical projects, there are multifarious challenges. 

The government has gotten ready to face all the challenges by keeping the accountability and guidelines imposed by local and international organisations for the implementation of sophisticated structure like nuclear power plant. Necessary refurbishments have already taken place in rail route and marine route for the transportation of heavy equipments needed for the plant. 

To build an able human resource for the governance and operation of the plant, courses related with nuclear power has already been included in secondary and higher secondary curriculum. 

The plan for including Nuclear Engineering course in undergraduate and graduate level has taken. A regulatory authority has been formed. With the aid of Russian Federation, an Msc degree in Nuclear Science and Technology has already been started in university level. 

energynewsbd.com: What will be the contribution of Rooppur nuclear power plant in power sector of Bangladesh? What do you think? 

Yeafesh Osman: Rooppur power plant will play a significant role not only in power sector of the country but also in other sectors as well. 

  • Rooppur power plant is very environment friendly. There is no carbon emission in nuclear power plant.
  • To be a middle income country, the electricity generation has to be increased rapidly. For that, there is no other option but to implement a nuclear power plant. The present government, to implement its vision-2021 plan has taken a massive Power Sector Master plan of producing 24,000 MW of electricity by 2021. Out of this 24,000 MW, 10% which is 2,400 MW will be produced from nuclear power plant in Rooppur.
  • Though the life cycle of this 2,400 MW plant is usually 50 years but it is estimated that it will be able to generate electricity for the next 80 years.
  • The most important factor is that if we consider our land scarcity and the issue of environmental degradation, then we truly do not have much option but to go for nuclear power plant. Nuclear power plant can produce a huge amount of electricity in a very small space. 

Lastly, because of this plant, a door of knowledge is going to be open in front of us and for that we have to thank our Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina. 

energynewsbd.com: Bangladesh is also planning to have another nuclear power plant in near future? What is the progress on that issue? 

Yeafesh Osman: A committee comprised of the members from Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, Public Works Department and Power Grid Company Limited of Bangladesh has already completed some of the primary works regarding that.  

At the initial stage, a total of eight sites have been identified in Khulna, Barguna, Patuakhali, Noakhali and Feni. The final site will be selected after the completion of a feasibility study.   

 

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