India supplying non-critical equipment for Roopur Nuclear Power Plant: Shafiqul Islam

Chairman of Nuclear Engineering Department of the University of Dhaka Dr. M. Shafiqul Islam
Chairman of Nuclear Engineering Department of the University of Dhaka Dr. M. Shafiqul Islam

Chairman of Nuclear Engineering Department of the University of Dhaka Dr. M. Shafiqul Islam contends that India’s success in Bangladesh’s maiden nuclear power plant project will further its claim to the membership of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, an elite club of 48 countries that regulates international nuclear trade. He, also, clarified that India will or will not be supplying any critical equipment for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP), depends on the agreement. Without seeing the agreement, I cannot say anything. However, I can say, at this stage it would not be good if India will supply critical nuclear equipment for the RNPP.

Read the full interview here –

Question: India is not a part of NSG. Does it cause any limitations to the country’s position as a supplier in the nuclear industry?

Answer: Previously India’s attempt to join the club failed due to the opposition from a few countries, particularly China, who opposed India’s call since India is not a signatory of the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Although previously halted, India’s appeal for NSG membership has been advanced by its compliance to the IAEA Additional Protocol for the Non-Proliferation and the US-India Nuclear Deal 2008, which helped Delhi to receive a ‘clean waiver’ in the NSG table. The waiver gives India the legal right under the world nuclear regulatory regime to trade civil nuclear materials and equipment for peaceful purposes.

In the present context, India has utilized its waiver for its maiden nuclear venture abroad to supply non-critical nuclear materials to the RNPP. Success in this project under Russia’s leadership will certainly enhance India’s position as a deserving candidate to be a member of the elite NSG.

Question: Is India allowed to supply critical equipment for the RNPP?

Answer: On March 1, 2018 a Tripartite Nuclear Cooperation Deal was signed between Russia and India for the construction of the RNPP. It does not stipulate any scope for supplying critical equipment. India can supply some non-critical equipment and materials. So far I know, presently, they are supplying stones and cements. India can train our people and provide us right advice when required.

Question: How safe are modern nuclear power plants?

Answer: The latest Gen III+ nuclear reactors are safer than the Gen II (TMI, Chernobyl and Fukushima) nuclear reactors. Gen II nuclear reactors do not have passive H2 gas recombiner, core catcher and other passive safety systems. Learning lessons from the past three accidents, Gen III+ nuclear reactors are designed considering beyond design basis accidents, more diversity, redundancy, multiple barriers, and fail safe during any natural and man-made hazards.

Question: What is an exclusion zone of the NPP?

Answer: During siting of a nuclear power plant, three zones are considered for control of population for routine-wise reactor operation and accidental cases. The innermost zone, called the Exclusion Zone (EZ), surrounds the plant and defines an area directly under the control of the plant authority where there is no access to public. The second zone, an annulus around the exclusion zone defines the restricted Zone or the Low Population Zone where the growth of population is limited by administrative control and the third zone is called the Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) where people should be evacuated during the severe accident for the emergency situation.

Question: What is the size of an exclusion zone of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant? What does it mean?

Answer: Zoning concept around nuclear power plants (NPPs) depend on reactor type, design, technology advancement, inherent safety systems and country specific regulatory body acceptance criteria. Previously, the exclusion zone was maintained at a distance of 1.6 km from the reactor centre, the restricted zone till 5 km and emergency planning zone up to 16-30 km. Nowadays, due to the advancement of the nuclear technology and their safety systems such as Gen III+ nuclear reactors, exclusion distance shortens a lot. For the RNPP, it may be less than one kilometer.