Experts call for more nuclear research facilities in Bangladesh as construction begins on Rooppur N-plant


As Bangladesh is celebrating the pouring of First Concrete for nuclear power plant at Rooppur, energy experts in the country call for setting up laboratories and facilities for nuclear research and expanding its scope.

Former Chairman of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission M Ali Zulquarnain advised that nuclear power plants are sensitive sites and hence, not appropriate for conducting formal research. “Power plants are built to generate power, it is not an ideal place for conducting research. Formal research may create disturbance in the power plant’s operation. So, a separate research facility is needed to study nuclear sciences. The nuclear power plant will have to be operated by highly trained engineers. So, adequate training is required to create expertise among engineers and technicians. Both, the training and research centre facility are needed to be established to support the RNPP,” he told Nuclear Asia.

After decades of plans and programmes, the country has been able to see the construction begin on its first nuclear power plant, located about 160 kms outside Dhaka. The plant is being seen as the booster for the country’s dream to power an economic growth and take it to ‘the middle income country’ category. Zulquarnain termed the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant a “game changer”.

Zulquarnain’s opinion was echoed by General Secretary of Bangladesh Physics Society Ishtiaque Maoyeen Syed. “The country will not prosper without sufficient sources of energy and power; and the process of industrialization will become stagnant. The garments industry is already shifting away from our country. In short, meeting the energy and power demand is a must,” said Syed.

He added: “We are moving towards the utilization of Uranium, which is a very timely decision. The power that is generated from 1 kg of Uranium-235 is two to three million times the energy equivalent of coal. As a result, going for nuclear power is actually a good move as it will not pollute the environment and is cheaper in the long run.”

The two units of the plant will be operational in 2023 and 2024 respectively and it will be in operation for 60 years to be extendable by another 20 years. For a country of 163 million with one of the highest population density, its nuclear scientists see many advantages in the power of the atom.

“Nuclear Power has many advantages in comparison to the other means of conventional power. It requires minimum infrastructural developments. Moreover conventional power also has greater impact on the environment, whereas nuclear power is greener and environmental friendly,” Chairman of Dhaka University’s Department of Nuclear Engineering Shafiqul Islam said while speaking to Nuclear Asia. Nuclear energy is important for Bangladesh as it strives to provide electricity to each and every citizen as presently a population equal to that of Australia is without electricity from the grid.

Islam built a case for nuclear energy citing the cost per unit of power, which is one-third of the coal-based power plants and one-fifth of the gas-fired power plants. “Moreover, the entire cost of installing the RNPP will be recovered in 10-15 years of operation of the plant,” he added. Bangladesh plans to have 30 per cent of its power from domestic coal, 20 per cent from imported coal, 25 per cent from natural gas (including LNG), 5 per cent from liquid fuel; and 20 per cent from nuclear, renewable energy and power imports.