Bangladesh to soon pour first concrete for its Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant

Bangladesh’s nuclear energy programme will reach a significant landmark as the first concrete will be poured by mid-November for the country’s first nuclear power plant at Rooppur. The First Concrete Pouring Day will mark the beginning of construction the nuclear power plant, a milepost in Bangladesh’s development history.

The Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP) is also exemplary in terms of inter-nation collaboration to promote cleaner energy and to build capacity in developing countries to help them cut down emissions. Russia and Bangladesh have come together to make this project a success. The energy generated from this plant will give fillip to Dhaka’s ambition to push the country into a middle income country by 2021 and a developed country by 2041.

“The country has already made considerable progress in establishing the first ever nuclear power plant at Rooppur. The government is planning to observe the First Concrete Pouring Day (FCD) at the end of October or in mid-November this year. On that day, the construction of the main power plant will be officially launched. It is expected that the first and second unit of RNPP, each with the capacity of 1200MW, will be in commercial operation in 2022 and 2023, respectively,” Project Director of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP) Dr Mohammad Shawkat Akbar told the Bangladesh’s English daily Daily Star. The Bangladesh government aims to generate at least 4000 MW electricity from nuclear sources by 2030, which will be about 10 percent of the total targeted electricity generation.

Russia and India are helping Bangladesh to materialise the project by giving financial, technological and training support. As per the Inter-governmental Credit Agreement inked between Bangladesh and Russia on July 26, 2016; Moscow will be providing $ 11.38 billion in terms of financial support for the project estimated to cost $12. 65 billion. Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) also entered a technical collaboration with Russian ASE Group of Companies (a part of ROSATOM State Atomic Energy Corporation).

The plant will consist of two units powered by VVER-1200 nuclear reactors. Russia will be supplying the necessary equipment and nuclear fuel. The project management team and; the RNPP operational and maintenance personnel will be trained by Moscow. Bangladesh has also signed two inter-governmental and inter-agency agreements with India under which the Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) of India will provide training and consultancy services for the implementation of the RNPP project.

“Bangladesh has adopted the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Milestones guidelines for addressing infrastructure related issues like legal and regulatory framework, management plan, technological requirements, safety, finance and human resource development,” Dr Akbar added. The IAEA had inspected the development of national infrastructure for Phase 1 and 2 of the nuclear reactor in 2011 under an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission. In total 50 recommendations were made. Thereafter, Bangladesh mooted an integrated work plan for the period of 2012-15 to implement the recommendations.

Bangladesh has not been leaving any stone unturned since 2009 to adhere to IAEA guidelines. Director General of IAEA Yukiya Amano, who visited the RNPP project site in Pabna on July 3, 2017, expressed his satisfaction over compliance to international guidelines in implementing the nuclear project. He also added that Bangladesh is constructing the plant maintaining high standards of security measures.

The legal and regulatory frameworks have been put in place to pave way for the construction of the first Nuclear power plant of Bangladesh. The safety procedures, in the aftermath of the The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, have also been taken care of. Project Director Dr Akbar says that “after the Fukushima accident the government has put greater emphasis on the site safety aspects and engineering solutions to increase resistance of plants to extreme events and cliff edge effects”.

“Five layers of safety barriers would be put in place. The nuclear power plant units have been designed by adopting site-specific safety measures. The design basis for natural and human-induced external events such as earthquakes, floods, aircraft crash, explosions, etc., and the radiological impact on the population and on the territory during both normal and accidental conditions have already been analysed and defined,” Dr. Akbar added.

The Bangladesh government has also addressed the concerns around how to dispose the spent fuel of nuclear power plant by entering a contract with Moscow, under which the spent fuel will be returned to Russia for further processing.

Presently, a workforce of 369 professionals is working in the project management unit but eventually the Nuclear Power Plant Company will need to recruit and train 2,700 personnel every year to keep the plant running. In view of this the Bangladeshi government is encouraging its officials and students to undertaken several training and education programmes. Fifty students are already in Russia to study nuclear engineering and more will be sent this year. On their return they will be part of the biggest milestone in the development history of the country. Dhaka University and Military Institute of Science and Technology have also established departments to provide higher education on nuclear engineering.

Apart from the energy, the nuclear power plant will also have important spin offs in terms of advancement of nuclear technology in other fields like agriculture and medicine.