Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant: Nuclear fuel handover ceremony today

The Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant area on 4 October, 2023
Hasan Mahmud

The use of nuclear energy in the country was dreamt first in 1961. The then government of Pakistan scrapped the project just a few years after acquiring the land for it. The dream once again emerged in the independent country but there was a long hiatus for its implementation. Now the infrastructural work of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant is about to be completed. It also has acquired all required international certificates and global recognitions. Nuclear fuel has also arrived in the country. Bangladesh is set to become the 33rd country that are using nuclear energy.

Russia will handover nuclear fuel to Bangladesh for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant formally today, Thursday.

News agency BSS said Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to virtually join the programme.

The two leaders are scheduled to join the handover event of the Certificate and Model of Nuclear Fuel through virtual platforms, an official source said.

Officials of the science and technology affairs ministry said despite construction of the nuclear power plant Bangladesh did not have nuclear energy. The country is now going to have ownership of nuclear energy. Director General of ROSATOM, Russian Federation, Alexei Likhachev will handover a sample of the nuclear fuel to science and technology affairs minister Yeafesh Osman.

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But power generation will not be possible immediately after the arrival of nuclear fuel, unlike coal or oil. There are several more stages before initiating the process, where the global standards must be maintained. Permission also has to be taken from concerned authorities at every stage. The power generation in the first unit of RNPP is likely to begin experimentally in December 2024.

While visiting the project area in Rooppur on Wednesday, science and technology affairs minister Yeafesh Osman told newspersons that power from the RNPP will be available from the beginning of 2025. The power plant will contribute around 2 per cent to the country’s GDP growth.

Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant project director Mohammad Shawkat Akbar at the time said the RNPP has achieved a nuclear plant status immediately after the arrival of nuclear fuel in the project area. Bangladesh is going to be the 33rd member of the club of countries using atomic energy, he added.

The Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant and Hardinge Bridge are seen from Rooppur Railway Station area on 4 October, 2023
Hasan Mahmud

As per the information of World Nuclear Association, the countries using nuclear power are - the US, China, France, Russia, South Korea, Canada, Ukraine, Germany, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, the UK, India, Czech Republic, Finland, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Pakistan, Hungary, Slovakia, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Romania, Argentina, the UAE, Belarus, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Iran and Armenia.

Spirited Rooppur 

Colourful graffiti has been painted on the boundary walls of ‘Green City’, the projects’ residential area, highlighting transformations of a rural area due to the friendship between Bangladesh and Russia.

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The topic include traditional Bengali cultur, relation between Bangladesh and Russia, and various teachable issues, including Bangladesh’s liberation war, short history of the RNPP project, 100 per cent electrification, traditional Hardinge Bridge, Lalon Shah Bridge and achievements of the Bangladesh Army.

The graffiti also highlight flora and fauna of Bangladesh. The project area has been adorned with flags of Bangladesh and Russia and other banners and festoons.

Surveillance on peaceful use

As per the agreement, the project cost includes the cost of the necessary amount of nuclear fuel, to be brought from Russia, for the next three years. Same amount of power will be generated from the plant in 24 hours incessantly. New fuel will be used every 18 months. A unit could remain closed for two months at best for discharging used fuel, refilling new fuel, and maintenance of the unit.

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This nuclear fuel cannot be used for any purpose other than generation of electricity. Bangladesh has already signed an agreement for peaceful use of nuclear energy. The matter will be under surveillance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an autonomous international organisation within the United Nations system.

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The first consignment of uranium, the nuclear fuel of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, arrived in Bangladesh from Russia through a special air cargo on 28 September. Later, it was taken to the Rooppur project site under special security arrangements. The fuel, however, will not be used right now. It has been stored at the plant.

Advancement in mega the project

The Nuclear Energy Commission, a commission of the science and technology affairs ministry, has been implementing the construction of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant project. Atomstroyexport, an exporter of nuclear power equipment and service of Russia, has been constructing the two units of the RNPP with a capacity of 1200 MW power generation each. TVEL Fuel Company, a sister concern of Rosatom, has been producing the required nuclear fuel for RNPP. Different countries procure nuclear fuel from them.

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The Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant project is the biggest mega project ever undertaken in the country. The cost of this project is estimated at around Tk 1.14 trillion. Of this, the government is providing some Tk 220.53 billion and the rest (Tk 914 billion) is being provided by Russia as loan assistance.

The construction work of the first unit of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant has ended with the installation of the core barrel in October, 2021. According to Rosatom, the Russian contractor of the project, the core barrel is one of the main elements of the reactor internals. Inside the barrel, there are a baffle and fuel assemblies that participate in the nuclear reaction. The core barrel of the second unit was installed in October last year.

* The report, originally published in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza