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Dhaka Sunday,  Apr 14, 2024

Six More Uranium Shipments In Next Six Weeks

Shamima Rita, Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh has already received the first of seven consignments of uranium for the first unit of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP), and six more shipments are set to arrive in the next six weeks, Project Director Shaukat Akbar confirmed on Friday.

The plant’s first unit is scheduled to begin electricity generation and contribute to the national grid in September or October of the following year, according to the project director.

The initial consignment of fresh nuclear fuel, transported from Russia on a specially designated plane, landed in Bangladesh on Thursday evening.

“At night, the commissioner chairman and I took ownership of it,” Akbar said. “Then the uranium was transported to Rooppur under the protection of law enforcement forces, adhering to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) transportation guidelines.”

This shipment marked a significant milestone in the construction of the plant’s first unit, with a graduation ceremony planned for October 5, to be virtually attended by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Concerning the quantity of uranium, Akbar explained that the uranium would be delivered in seven shipments for the first unit, with this being the first of the seven. He confirmed that six additional shipments would follow in the coming weeks.

Akbar said: “Our work is progressing, and we have discussed with Ministry of Power officials that by this time next year, i.e., September or October, we will commence production in the first unit and start supplying electricity to the national grid.”

Following the collection of invoices, the remaining activities for grid supply will be completed within a year, after which production and supply will commence through commissioning and testing.

Nuclear power plant fuel differs from fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal. It primarily consists of uranium-235, a metallic material in the form of small pellets. The energy generated from nuclear fuel significantly surpasses that of conventional fuels. For example, a uranium pellet weighing just four and a half grams can produce the same amount of electricity as 400 kilograms of coal or 360 cubic metres of gas.

These pellets are loaded into seamless metal tubes called fuel rods, which are then combined into fuel assemblies, each measuring three and a half to four and a half metres in length. A total of 163 fuel assemblies will be loaded into the 1,200MW reactor at the Rooppur plant.

While nuclear power is considered a reliable, cost-effective, and clean energy source, concerns regarding safety and radiation effects persist. Shaukat Akbar, the project director, emphasized the rigorous safety measures in place. “We have completed multiple steps to ensure the safe handling of nuclear fuel, including construction, commissioning, personnel recruitment and training, regulatory compliance, and uranium conservation. All international standards for fuel import and storage have been met.”

As the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant progresses towards operation, concerns about waste management and radiation’s impact on public health in the Rooppur area have grown. Project sources highlight the potential risks associated with nuclear fuel, necessitating specialized disposal methods.

To address this issue, Bangladesh has signed an agreement with Russia for the high-quality nuclear waste management of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant. Under the agreement, Russia will handle the disposal of high-quality nuclear fuel waste, also known as spent fuel, from Bangladesh. After reprocessing the spent fuel to enhance long-term safety, the high-quality radioactive waste will be buried at a depth of 400 metres in uninhabited areas.

As of now, no official statements have been issued regarding the specifics of waste management, transportation systems, costs, or other waste management plans related to the project. However, these measures are expected to play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and success of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.

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