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Dhaka Sunday,  Apr 14, 2024

Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant: 55% of Russian Loan Released, 85% Work Completed

Abu Tahar

Bangladesh and Russia signed an agreement in 2016 for $11.38 billion to finance the construction of Rooppur nuclear power plant. According to the updated information of the Economic Relations Division (ERD), as of the first half (July-December) of the 2023-24 fiscal, $6.273 billion of the pledged Russian loan was released. This is about 55 percent of the total loan amount. Most of the work of the project has already been completed. Sources concerned say that 85 percent of the work has been concluded.

The first unit of the nuclear power plant being constructed with the Russian finance and technology is likely to be operational within this year. Installation of necessary heavy machinery and nuclear reactors has been done. Spare parts, infrastructures and fuel have already arrived in the country.

When asked where the remaining un-released $5 billion will be used, a senior official involved in the Rooppur project told on condition of anonymity, “Release of loan and use of fund for this project are not like all other projects. Russia itself is in charge of issues like construction of the power plant, technology, spare parts to fuel supply and security. So, they themselves will get most of the money spent on the project. As per the power plant construction agreement, money is not released until the manufacturing of the spare parts for the project and their placement are done. Many parts were placed, but those are still at experimental level. Many parts are at the shipment phase. Activities are on in many phases.”

The total capacity of two units of Rooppur nuclear power plant is 2,400 megawatt – 1,200 megawatt each. The first unit is likely to be operational by this year. The fuel for the first unit came to Bangladesh in September 28, last year. The second unit is scheduled to start operation in 2025.

Talking to two officials of the Ministry of Science and Technology, it has been learnt that works are now at the pre-commissioning stage with regard to operationalization of the first unit which means activities on cold state and hot state. There are at least three more steps on the way to operationalize the power plant. If all the relevant activities, including construction of gridlines and sub-stations are properly done, it will be possible to begin operation of the first unit quickly.

“There is an international guideline on commencing operation of a nuclear power plant,” Professor Dr Shafiqul Islam of nuclear engineering at Dhaka University told.

“There are at least four phases in the lead up to the commencement. Especially, the pre-commissioning activities, involving cold state and hot state, need to be completed. Then, using real fuel, you have to go to full power gradually from zero. After that fuel is to be loaded at final phase. The results of these activities will have to be provided to the regulatory bodies. After all thse procedures, the plant can be made operational,” he said.

Bangladesh and Russia are moving ahead with all the preparations to begin operation of the country’s first ever nuclear power plant. However, many individuals involved in the sector have expressed fear on commencement of the plant in time, as there remains a big doubt about completion of construction of gridlines.

According to Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB), the duration of the project to complete the construction of gridlines for Rooppur nuclear power plant is from July, 2022 to June, 2025. So far, the project registered 22 percent physical progress and only 10 percent financial progress.

People concerned say connecting Rooppur power plant with the national grid mainly depends on demand. But, the Power Division is planning to have electricity from Rooppur in the national grid.

Engineer Mohammad Hossain, director general of government’s regulatory body Power Cell, told Bonik Barta, “We have a plan to take electricity from Rooppur within this year. We do have the capacity to transmit the electricity of the first unit. But, it is doubtful if the NPCBL, the implanting body, will be able to able to start the power plant in time.”

According to annual report of ERD, since Bangladesh’s independence, Russia has so far pledged a total loan of $12.28 billion. Of it, $11.38 billion is for Rooppur nuclear power plant of which 6.273 was already released. This shows that Russian pledged and released loan for other sectors is negligible.

Bonik Barta

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