Bangladesh’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority (BAERA) has authorized construction to begin this month on the nation’s first nuclear reactor, a long-delayed and Russian-supported plant that is expected to produce electricity by 2023.
The project, which was conceived in 1961 before Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) became an independent nation, is estimated to cost more than U.S. $13 billion (1 trillion taka). Bangladesh’s first nuclear power plant is to be constructed in Rooppur in Northwestern Pabna district, about 160 km (100 miles) from Dhaka.
“Bangladesh is set to enter into the nuclear age. This is a good news for the nation,” Yafes Osman, the state minister for science and technology, told BenarNews.
Construction of a second reactor is scheduled to begin later and go online by 2024, potentially driving construction costs to $18 billion (1.5 trillion taka). The two reactors are expected to produce 2,400 megawatts of electricity per day, officials said.
Russia is to provide 90 percent of the funds through loans to be paid back by Bangladesh’s government, which is responsible for the other 10 percent of the cost. Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom has been overseeing the project featuring its latest technology.
On Nov. 30, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will formally inaugurate construction of the structure to house the first reactor.
Earlier this month, BAERA chairman Naiyyum Choudhury presented the project’s design and construction license to Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) Chairman Dilip Kumar Saha. Work to clear the site for the project has been completed.
Along with supplying electricity, the Rooppur project will help build national confidence in other major construction projects, Osman said.
“Bangladesh will be joining the global nuclear club is a matter of time. Some formalities are yet to be finished – hopefully, these will be finished soon,” he said.
But construction of a nuclear plant in a densely populated country is not without risks, Md Shafiqul Islam, a professor at Dhaka University’s Department of Nuclear Engineering and Technology, told BenarNews.
“No one can guarantee that there will be no accidents,” he said, but pointed out that the plant’s sophisticated technology would reduce those risks.
Rosatom plans to recruit Indian experts because Bangladesh lacks the trained workers to run a nuclear plant. Since Hasina’s India visit in April, Bangladesh has been hiring Indian consultants to set up the plant and to train Bangladesh scientists to operate it.
In addition, Rosatom expects to train 1,100 workers to operate the plant and more than 50 Bangladeshi students have been studying nuclear science and technology in Russia.