The Roppur nuclear power plant is expected to be a model of clean energy in Bangladesh and provide affordable, reliable and quality electricity in the long run, writes Pathik Hasan for South Asia Monitor
Work on the Rooppur nuclear power project – the country’s most expensive power plant – in Bangladesh’s Pabna district is moving fast. The country’s first nuclear plant in Rooppur, on the banks of the Padma river, is one of the most vital of the ten mega projects undertaken by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Bangladesh is going to enter the age of nuclear generation of electricity once the project, seen as an example of peaceful use of nuclear technology, is completed. It would help the country in meeting the huge demand for electricity generated by the growing number of factories and companies.
Bangladesh initiated its nuclear program in 2013 by signing a treaty with Russia that opened up a new avenue in their bilateral cooperation. At that time, the two countries signed a state export credit agreement to implement a nuclear project in Bangladesh. The work on the Rooppur plant started with the direct financial and technical cooperation of Russia.
There are garment factories in Bangladesh which are producing in huge quantities. So, Bangladesh needs electricity. In 2009 the power generation was 3200 MW; now it has exceeded 20,000 MW. Two 1200-MW capacity reactors are being set up at Rooppur. Once the first nuclear power plant in Bangladesh begins production, it will kick-start another developmental revolution in the country.
The coronavirus epidemic has hit Bangladesh hard, but work at Rooppur continues at a normal pace. The authorities are hoping that the work will be completed on time. The first of the two units are set to be launched in 2023 and the second one in 2024.
Second nuclear power plant
There is no alternative to energy and power security for the desired development and progress of any country. Bangladesh is expected to be upgraded to the status of a developed country by 2041. With this goal in mind, a comprehensive program of power generation has been taken up.
As economic activity grows, it is essential to ensure power supply as its driving force. In addition to the construction of large gas-oil based power plants, several coal-based power plants and the Rooppur nuclear project are being constructed. The Prime Minister recently mentioned about the construction of another nuclear power plant. It will be in the south.
In a video conference from Ganobhaban, Bangladesh Prime Minister’s official residence, on October 10, 2021, Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the installation of the first nuclear reactor pressure vessel at the Rooppur nuclear power plant. The installation of the reactor is considered to be the most important steps in commissioning a nuclear power plant.
Hasina has sought Russia's cooperation in building the second nuclear power plant. She hoped that in future Russia's state atomic energy agency Rosatom would cooperate with Bangladesh in this regard. The issue was discussed on October 11, 2021, at Ganobhaban with Rosatom Director General Alexei Likhachev.
Hasina emphasized on the importance of safety, and asked Rosatom to train the local people so that they could run the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP) on their own in the future.
A landmark in Bangladesh’s development
The ROSATOM chief said his country was keen on continuing to cooperate in Bangladesh's power sector. Likhachev said by 2023 Bangladesh will become a nuclear power.
The people of Bangladesh are hoping that power generation will start after the completion of the project as per schedule.
The Rooppur nuclear power plant is the product of many years of experience and scientific thinking in the Russian nuclear sector. A senior official involved in the project said the unique combination of active and passive systems of the power unit would ensure the safe operation of the center and ensure the planned level of power generation.
"We hope that nuclear power will not only solve the problem of energy supply in Bangladesh, but also make an important contribution to the development of the overall quality of life of the people," he said.
The RNPP has entailed a cost of over USD 12.65 billion. Despite the epidemic, thousands of workers are working there day and night. The Rooppur nuclear power plant is expected to be a model of clean energy in Bangladesh and provide affordable, reliable and quality electricity in the long run. This will make Bangladesh more prosperous in the long run.
(The writer is a Bangladesh-based NGO activist and researcher-writer on international relations. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)