History of nuclear power in Bangladesh: Road to Rooppur N-Plant project


The bitter experience of the people in the then East Pakistan with the West Pakistani rulers included the relocation of the nuclear power plant project’s site from Rooppur, Pabna, to Karachi. In 1961, the first nuclear power project was taken in East Pakistan, but in 1965, the government shifted the project to Karachi, West Pakistan. A year later, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission started construction of the nuclear power unit with 137MW capacity with Canadian pressurized heavy water or popularly known as KANDU reactor and completed it in 1971. A good number of Bengali engineers and scientific officers, who were mainly recruited for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, were engaged in construction of the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant.

1961 — The then Pakistan government conceived the first nuclear power project in East Pakistan.

1962-1968 — Rooppur, on the bank of the river Padma, was selected as the site for the nuclear power plant. The government carried out a number of studies and acquired 260 acres of land for construction of 200MW nuclear power plant and 32 acres for residential area. All the activities related to the Rooppur plant were slowed down after 1965. Meanwhile, land development, site office for construction, rest house, electric sub-station and a few residential units were partially completed.

1969-1970 — The Pakistan government scrapped the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant project.

1972-1975 — The first Bangladesh government revived the nuclear power project.

27 February 1973 — The founding government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh created Bangladesh Anobik Shakti Kamishon (Literary Meaning: Bangladesh Molecular Energy Commission) with an objective is to promote use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. In 1988, it was renamed as Bangladesh Paramanu Shakti Kamishon or Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC). In 2006, the headquarter of BAEC was shifted to Poromanu Bhaban building at Agargaon, Shere Bangla Nagar, Dhaka from the Dhaka University premises.

1977-1986 — Construction of a nuclear power plant at the Rooppur site was found feasible following a feasibility study carried out by the French company Sofratom.
The government could not advance with the project for different constraints even after its Executive Committee of the National Economic Council approved a project proposal for construction of a 125MW nuclear power plant.

1981 – the Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology (INST) started functioning as an arm of BAEC to promote research and development works in different fields of nuclear science and technology especially towards development of infrastructure for future nuclear power projects in the country.

14 September 1986 — The BAEC commissioned a TRIGA Mark-II research reactor with 3MW thermal power generation capacity at Savar, Dhaka.

1987-1988 — A German and a Swedish company carried out another feasibility study at Rooppur. The Study recommended constructing 300MW-500MW nuclear power plant.

1997-2000 — BAEC took a project to set up a 600MW nuclear power plant at Rooppur. A few preparatory activities including human resource development were initiated. The then BAEC chairman MA Wazed Miah played the key role. The government approved Bangladesh Nuclear Power Action Plan-2000.

2005 — The government signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with China.

2007 — BAEC proposed to construct a two-unit nuclear power plant with 500MW capacity each at Rooppur by 2015. The proposal quoted an estimated cost of US$0.9 billion to $1.2 billion for a 600MW nuclear power plant and $ 1.5 billion to $2.0 billion for a 1,000MW plant. The then caretaker government approved the proposal. Former BAEC chairman and an adviser to the caretaker government, CS Karim, played the key role to obtain the government’s nod to advance with the nuclear program.

2008 — Awami League in its election manifesto pledged to move ahead with the nuclear power program. On April 2008, the then government reiterated its willingness to work with China to build the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant. China offered funding for the project. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approved a Technical Assistance project for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant to be initiated between 2009 and 2011.

2009 — The government initiated the nation’s nuclear program through a development project to complete essential works for building a nuclear power plant at Rooppur. In April, the government approved the Russian proposal to build a two-unit nuclear power plant with 2,000 MW combined capacity at a cost of about $2 billion. The proposal included Russia-built AES-92 or VVER-1,000 water pressurized reactors.

2010 — Both the governments of Bangladesh and Russia agreed to build a two-unit nuclear power plant with VVER-1,000 reactors.

Major follow up events:

21 May 2010 — The government of Bangladesh signed a cooperation agreement with the government of Russian Federation in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy. The intergovernmental agreement provides a legal basis for nuclear cooperation in areas such as siting, design, construction and operation of power and research nuclear reactors, water desalination plants, and elementary particle accelerators. The agreement also provides bindings for supply of fuel and management of nuclear wastes as such Russia will manage wastes and decommissioning.

10 November 2010 — The parliament took the decision to construct a nuclear power plant at Rooppur.

2 November 2011 — Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on cooperation in construction of a nuclear power plant in Bangladesh.

19 June 2012 — The government enacted the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Act-2012 and created an authority to regulate the country’s nuclear industry. The parliament was told that the government planned to set up further nuclear power plants with a combined generation capacity of 5,000 MW by 2030, and a second plant would be built in the coastal belt following successful commissioning of the Rooppur plant.

15 January 2013 — Authorities of Bangladesh and Russia signed the first Intergovernmental Credit Agreement (IGCA) worth $500 million for the preparatory works on construction of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant at an estimated cost of $555 million. The Bangladesh government invested $55 million under its Annual Development Program.
Under the provision of the IGA and IGCA, four contracts for the preparatory period were signed between Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) and Russian Contractor, ASE Group of Companies.

2 October 2013 — Prime minister Sheikh Hasina laid the first stone in the foundation of the Rooppur NPP.

2014 — Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation of Russia said that they will supply and install two units of VVER-1200 light water reactors and its Novovoronezh-2 NPP in Russia would be the reference plant.

8 September, 2015 — The parliament passed the Nuclear Power Plant Act-2015 that established Nuclear Power Company of Bangladesh for operation and maintenance of the country’s nuclear power plants including its first one, Rooppur NPP. Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission is the owning organization while the Nuclear Power Plant Company Bangladesh Limited will be the operating organization on behalf of the BAEC. A board was proposed comprising of 7-12 directors to run the company. The science and technology ministry secretary has been made the chairman of the board. The project director, Md Shawkat Akbar, was made the first managing director of the company.

25 December 2015 — BAEC and ASE Group of Companies signed general contract for the construction of the two-unit Rooppur NPP with a total of 2,400MW power generation capacity at a cost of $12.65 billion. Under the contract, the Russian authorities will educate and train 1,950 individuals mainly for operation and maintenance of the power plant.

22 June 2016 — Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority (BAERA) issued site license to BAEC that approved NPP design, AES-2006 or VVER- 1,200, and commencement of preparatory works at the NPP site at Rooppur in Pabna.

26 July 2016 — Authorities of Bangladesh and Russia signed an $11.38 billion credit agreement for main construction and erection of the 2,400MW nuclear power plant. The credit covers 90 per cent of the total required investment and carries 1.75 per cent interest on top of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). The 30-year repayment period would include a 10-year grace period. Bangladesh is to repay the loan in 40 equal installments, beginning 2027.

6 December 2016 — The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved the Rooppur NPP Project at an estimated cost of $12.65 billion or equivalent to Tk 113,092.91 crore.

7 August 2017 — The contractor failed to obtain approval from the BAERA for commencing first pouring of the structural concrete for the construction of the first nuclear power unit at the site. The FCP has been rescheduled for 30 November.

30 August 2017 — The Bangladesh government signed an agreement with its Russian counterpart for sending back the nuclear spent fuel from Rooppur plant site to Russia.

27 September 2017 — Bangladesh signed nuclear disarmament treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. The United Nations on 7 July 2017 adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of nuclear weapons.

4 November 2017 — The BAERA issued conditional license for design and construction of the nuclear power plant to be installed at Rooppur.

30 November 2017 — Main construction phase of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant began with the first concrete pouring into the reactor building foundation.