Bangladesh moves forward with Rooppur

28 June 2016

Just days after the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority (BAERA) issued the first site licence for the Rooppur nuclear power plant, the country's cabinet has approved the draft of an intergovernmental agreement that will see Russia provide $11.38 billion in credit for the project.

The ceremony to mark Rooppur's first site licence (Image: Rostechnadzor)

The licence - allowing preliminary site works, including geological surveys, to begin at Rooppur - was presented to Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission chairman Ali Zulqarnain by BAERA chairman Naiyyum Chowdhury, in a ceremony held in Dhaka on 21 June.

The ceremony was followed by the second meeting of the Joint Coordinating Committee on the construction of the Rooppur plant. This was attended by Nikolay Spassky, Rosatom deputy director general, Alexey Ferapontov, deputy chairman of Russian nuclear regulator Rostechnadzor, and Valery Limarenko, president of ASE Group. It was co-chaired by Bangladesh's finance minister, Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, and Abul Kalam Azad, head of the prime minister's office.

According to Rosatom, the meeting discussed construction of the two 1200 MWe NPP-2006 VVER units and focused on the entry into force of a general contract for the construction of the plant, for which a further site licence is required. The meeting also saw decisions made that will enable first concrete to be poured in mid-2017.

Cabinet approval

Days after the licence ceremony, Bangladesh's cabinet approved the draft of the credit agreement with Russia. According to the Dhaka Tribune, cabinet secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam told reporters the Russian government would provide $11.38 billion as credit, with the remaining cost of the $12.65 billion project being met with Bangladeshi state-funded grants. He said the agreement was likely to be signed in July or August.

The credit is to be repaid over 30 years with a 10-year grace period, with repayments due to begin in March 2027. The government of Bangladesh will be required to provide at least 10% of the overall contract value to the Russian contractor as an advance.

The two countries signed a general contract for the project on 25 December 2015.

A recent review of Bangladesh's nuclear infrastructure development, carried out by a team of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)-led experts in May, found that the country had made "noticeable progress" with its nuclear power program. The mission, a follow-up to an IAEA Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) in 2011, found that Bangladesh had initiated responses to all its earlier recommendations and suggestions.

The team identified Bangladesh's main achievements as the establishment of a nuclear safety regulatory body; the selection of the Rooppur site; undertaking site characterization and environmental impact assessment; and the adoption of a law to establish the Nuclear Power Plant Company Bangladesh Ltd, which will be the operating organization for the plant. Coordination among relevant government entities had been strengthened, but formalized procedures between the future operator and the regulatory body have yet to be established, it noted.

The IAEA team found implementation of some responses still required further attention, including strengthening Bangladesh's national project plan to reflect the actual status of the program and its future challenges. It also suggested a national and institutional human resource plan be finalized, a national communication strategy put in place for stakeholder involvement and public information, and that policies for the management of low and medium level radioactive waste should be formally approved.

The Rooppur site is in the Pabna district, about 160 km north of Dhaka.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News