The Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant’s generation units in Bangladesh will be based on VVER-1200 Russia reactors of the 3+ generation technology. The innovative power generation units have improved technical and economic parameters that ensure absolute safety of the operation and fully meet the post-Fukushima standards of the IAEA. The VVER-1200 is the most powerful reactor in Russia and it has three key advantages: it shows high-performance, it is durable and safe. The main feature of VVER-1200 project is its unique combination of active and passive safety systems, which provide the maximum resistance against external and internal impact, including tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and plane crash.
Alexander Khazin, Senior Vice President for International Projects of АSE Group of Companies, the engineering division of Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation of Russia, made the observation in an interview with Nuclear Asia.
Bangladesh is implementing their first ever nuclear power plant at Rooppur. What is the role of Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation and its subsidiary ASE Group of Companies in the project?
Rosatom has all necessary competences and expertise to assist Bangladesh in achieving its ambitious goals in terms of implementing the national NPP construction project and developing the high-tech industry, which will promote social and economic growth.
We are sharing our experience, expertise and solutions relating to all aspects of NPP construction, creation of required infrastructure and resolving issues of spent fuel, as well as providing the necessary support for training skilled personnel.
Bangladesh already has some great specialists, professionals with the experience of working at nuclear facilities. However, according to the IAEA experts, Bangladesh belongs to the countries that are only starting to develop their nuclear power industry. That’s why the joint objective of Russia and Bangladesh is to establish the system for training of the specialists. Bangladesh has ambitious plans in nuclear power development and therefore the country will need skilled personnel.
In fact, training is already well under way. At present, around 50 students from Bangladesh are studying in Russia. This year, the first group is to graduate. We plan to prepare more than 100 students specializing in the nuclear industry by the time the Rooppur NPP is commissioned. The students are being trained in the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI and its branches.
Rosatom will also provide training programs for the future Rooppur nuclear power plant in Bangladesh. The training will be conducted in Russia at our training facilities, as well as in Bangladesh at the future nuclear site. The latest number of the personnel we are going to train for Rooppur nuclear power plant is around 1,100 people.
What kind of support is ASE Group of Companies providing?
The Rooppur NPP is being constructed within the framework of the Inter-governmental agreement on cooperation in construction of a nuclear power plant in the People’s Republic of Bangladesh dated November 2, 2011.
The project is being implemented by ASE Group, a subsidiary of Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation. On 25 December 2016, ASE Group signed the general contract for construction of the Rooppur NPP consisting of two units with VVER-1200 reactors.
The scope of our obligations includes technical responsibility for the project as a whole, NPP designing, delivery of equipment and materials, training of the personnel, performance of installation works in basic buildings of the “nuclear island”, putting the plant into operation, provision of guarantee operation of the power units, delivery of spare parts.
What have you done so far to involve the local companies in the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant? How successful you are in doing that?
We held two workshops, one in Dhaka and another in Moscow for the Bangladeshi suppliers. We invited 15 potential construction companies from Bangladesh to Russia and out of them 9 attended the workshop.
During the meetings, we presented our road-map for the bidding procedure for the Rooppur NPP, which included general construction as well as more extensive work for preparing of working documentation.
Following the meetings, we found three companies with their own engineering centers and experience of interaction with the design institutions, who could be our prospective partners in cooperation.
We also organized a visit for managers and owners of the companies to the Novovoronezh nuclear power plant to make them understand the scale of the work and to provide practical experience. They also visited the Design Institute to get acquainted with the requirements for working documentation.
We are interested in maximum involvement of Bangladeshi suppliers and/or contractors in the Rooppur NPP project. I would like to reiterate that the range of opportunities is huge. We are ready to cooperate with construction and installation companies, integrated service providers and other relevant companies of Bangladesh.
Could you be more specific about the nature of jobs you are talking about?
We are talking about designing and construction of general facilities and systems for various purposes like repair workshops, administrative and amenity buildings among others.
If I am not wrong, you are talking about simple things like the supply of sand, cement, etc., as well as complex work starting from designing to making the facilities operational?
You are absolutely right. The work has just started. Not all companies have contacted us, while we are interested in maximum possible response from the local market. During the ongoing audit of potential contractors, special attention will be paid to the compliance with the requirements. This is to make sure that the companies concerned are financially stable and have required project resources, professional staff and equipment.
What kind of companies are you looking for collaboration?
Currently, we are looking for diverse-profile construction companies those are capable of participating in designing particularly of hydro-technical facilities, power units, etc.
Is it possible for you to provide us some figures like how many months or years would it normally takes to carry out such work? How many companies need to be involved?
It usually takes one to three years to carry out such works. Overall, there are 164 facilities at our plant.
As for your second question, rather than cooperating with 100 small companies, we would prefer a small group of large and reliable contractors with whom we could forge a strategic cooperation in the future, i.e. working together at each stage of building the facility. These may be large companies with experience of building similar industrial facilities in Bangladesh and in other countries. There is enough work for everyone.
How a company, which is interested in cooperation, could reach you?
Apart from workshops that we will continue to hold in Dhaka and Moscow, there are websites in two languages: the Rosatom‘s procurement website (zakupki.rosatom.ru/en/), NIAEP (niaep.ru/wps/wcm/connect/niaep/site.eng/) and the website of ASE Group of Companies (aseglobal.com/en/).
Next year we intend to launch a similar website with information on procurement in Bangladesh.
Pouring of the first concrete into the foundation slab of the Unit 1 of the Rooppur NPP was held on November, 30. The Rooppur NPP is the first nuclear power plant in Bangladesh; many people do not know what it is all about. How important is this event?
It is the beginning of pouring concrete into the foundation slab of the reactor compartment, which marks the start of the construction of any nuclear power plant. It takes about five years to build a reactor compartment, so it is one of the most important stages.
About nine months after the “first concrete” ceremony, work will begin to pour concrete into the foundation slab of the turbine island, which accommodates the main power generation equipment of the NPP.
Before the “first concrete”, a construction base is built and ground stabilization is carried out at the sites under the power units. This stage is called preparatory work or earthwork. They are also important but not as much as the main construction work.
Currently, reinforcement is being carried out: a three-meter frame on the foundation slab is being made, and the work involving the concrete cushion block and waterproofing are being completed.
How the quality control at Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant construction is being ensured?
Each stage of NPP construction in Bangladesh is being and will be strictly supervised and controlled by the Customer i.e. Bangladesh Atomic Energy Corporation (BAEC) and the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority (BAERA) by following the norms and regulations of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). On 21 June 2016, BAERA issued a license for beginning preparatory works at the Rooppur NPP site to the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) based on results of 63 various inspections, including soil, air and seismic activity studies in the NPP construction area, as well as environmental impact assessment. At the same time BAERA approved the selected NPP project.
How the nuclear reactor and other equipment to be transported to Bangladesh?
Each delivery of heavy and/or oversized load is a special and very complex technical operation. ASE specialists have studied various options of delivery of such equipment to the site. We find that the optimal method of delivery is by river transport. The reactor vessel will be loaded to an ocean-going ship in the port of Saint-Petersburg, delivered to the port of Mongla, reloaded to a river boat and then delivered to the site via the Bangladesh river system. A special discharging quay is planned to be built at the Rooppur NPP site for unloading of the equipment.
How much the new technology, being used at Rooppur will ensure safety?
Light-water VVER-type reactors – water-to-water power reactors of case type with regular water under pressure – are used in nuclear power plants design in Russia. Nuclear power plants with VVER-type reactors are now at various stages of implementation in Finland, Belarus, and other countries. In such reactors, water serves both as a neutron moderator and as a reactor coolant.
The VVER-type reactors are considered to be among the safest reactors worldwide and form the basis of the Russian nuclear industry development program and export growth. In fifty years of operation, nuclear power plants with VVER-type reactors (VVER-440, VVER-1000) have proven safe, reliable and competitive in the international power market, ensured sustainable development of the nuclear power industry, and highlighted the necessity of its further continuous development.
The Rooppur NPP power generation units will be based on VVER-1200 reactors of the 3+ generation technology. The innovative power generation units have improved technical and economic parameters that ensure absolute safety of the operation and fully meet the post-Fukushima standards of the IAEA. The VVER-1200 is the most powerful reactor in Russia and it has three key advantages: it shows high-performance, it is durable and safe. The main feature of VVER-1200 project is its unique combination of active and passive safety systems, which provide the maximum resistance against external and internal impact, including tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and plane crash.
The passive safety systems are capable of functioning even in case of a complete disruption of power supply — they can provide full safety without active systems or operator intervention. For example, passive heat removal system (PHRS) ensures a long-term heat removal from the reactor core section if all other power supply sources fail. A core melt localization device (CMLD) or a “core catcher” is designed to localize and cool the molten core material in case of a hypothetical accident which could lead to the damage of the core. The “core catcher” ensures the integrity of the protective shell and thus excludes radioactive leakage in the environment, even in case of a hypothetical severe accident.
Could you provide us some actionable insight about why Bangladesh should continue exploring nuclear energy, when number of other clean options like solar, wind and biomass are available?
Nuclear and renewable cannot be opposed to each other. Quite the opposite, they are allies rather than rivals, and complement each other very well. Nuclear power plants provide base load and don`t depend on weather conditions, generating power 24/7. Renewable are strongly dependent on weather conditions. A good example is India. There are around 300 sunny days a year. In Moscow, for example, solar generation is not that efficient. The same is with wind power. There are areas where winds are strong and those where they are weak. Besides, the wind does not reliably blow 24 hours a day, but power is always needed. We don’t have to compare renewable energy and nuclear power. It is about optimum mix. Economies become burdened if they depend on one source of power. I think, the future of the power industry is an energy mix. One cannot say that the entire industry should be either nuclear or renewable. Regional specifics and climate are to be taken into account. Our common goal is to find the most efficient and cheapest energy solutions.
How much the environment will be affected?
Carbon dioxide emissions grow day by day and the power industry is one of the main sources of these emissions. Therefore, correct choice of a power source and technology will have a direct impact on our future. According to the International Energy Agency, 38% of “green” power is now generated by nuclear power plants and in this respect nuclear energy plays a very important role in the future of mankind.
Over 45 years of operation, the world’s nuclear power plants avoid emission of 56 gigatons of CO2. With the current rate of power generation, this amounts to two years’ volume of emissions worldwide. If all NPPs of Russian design, built both in Russia and abroad, are taken into account, by 2030, the annual volume of prevented CO2 emissions will reach 2.4 billion tons, which is equal to 80% of annual emissions of the world car fleet. Metaphorically speaking, nuclear power may become “the planet’s lungs” allowing us to breathe clean air.