Construction starts on Bangladesh’s first nuclear power plant

Work on Bangladesh’s first commercial nuclear plant, to be built by Russia’s Rosatom, began yesterday when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina oversaw the first concrete pour on the first reactor’s base.

At the ceremony Hasina said she hoped the Rooppur plant would play an "important role" in transforming Bangladesh into a developed country by 2041.

Two reactors are planned for the plant by 2024, together supplying 2.4GW of energy with two VVER-1200 pressurised water reactors, Rooppur 1 and 2.

The VVER-1200 is the latest version of Russia’s main export reactor design, which has been improved for fuel efficiency. Russia will also provide the enriched uranium for the reactors and reprocess it when spent.

Alexey Likhachov, the director general of state nuclear agency Rosatom, said the facility had a design life of more than 100 years, which meant that the two countries were laying down "bases of friendship and cooperation" for present and future generations.

"We will be constructing the plant in Bangladesh with the same care and attention as in Russia," he added.

The concrete pour is the culmination of six years of negotiation between Rosatom and the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC). In December 2015 the two sides signed a $12.7bn deal for the project, and the Bangladesh Atomic Regulatory Authority issued the site licence the following June.

The total price included $10bn for construction, $1bn for soil stabilisation, and $1.7bn for contingencies. The deal was the biggest investment in Bangladesh’s history. Russia agreed to extend an $11.4bn loan to Bangladesh between March 2017 and 2024; it will be repaid over 20 years.

According to World Nuclear News, Rosatom expects that 12,000 Russian specialists including designers, engineers, equipment makers, builders and power engineers, will be involved in the construction of the two units.

Rooppur is on the eastern bank of the Ganges, about 140km upstream from Dhaka.

Rosatom’s portfolio of overseas orders currently includes 34 reactors in 12 countries. Bangladesh follows the UAE and Belorussia as the third country to join the civil nuclear club in the past 30 years.

Image: The first pour under way (Rosatom)

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