The physical progress of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant project has been 32.65% in four years and a half, with the government's development work oversight agency terming the financial progress unsatisfactory.
The Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) noted that physical progress of some segments of work had not been measured accurately. It asked officials to check whether the project's physical progress was in line with the plan.
The report, after the site visit by IMED Director General Md Abdul Majid, said there were weaknesses in project office documentations and physical progress of all work was not being recorded correctly while many key information was not being uploaded regularly.
IMED Secretary Pradip Ranjan Chakraborty told The Business Standard that the Rooppur plant was a fast-track project and that is why it was being monitored strictly.
He said progress of all development projects had stalled due to the adverse impacts of Covid-19 and the Rooppur project was no exception.
"The IMED found some slackness in the implementation of some segments of the project. We sent the report to the officials concerned with some recommendations," he said.
Pradip Chakraborty added that complying with the recommendations would speed up the project's implementation.
But Project Director Dr Mohammad Shawkat Akbar claimed progress was not far behind the target.
"Although the project was approved in 2016, concrete casting started in November of the following year. Progress is calculated from the day concrete casting begins. Thus, the project is only three years old, and there has been considerable progress since then," he said.
Shawkat Akbar said the nature of financial progress of nuclear power projects was very complex.
"At the beginning, disbursement is quite low. In other infrastructure projects, financial progress is calculated from the time of opening letters of credit for importing machinery and other materials.
"But in case of nuclear power projects, money is disbursed only if it is proved that the imported equipment that has been installed is working," he added.
The main components of the first unit of the project – nuclear reactor pressure vessel and steam generator – have arrived from Russia and have been kept at the project warehouse.
After the pressure vessel's arrival, it was supposed to be placed in the reactor. But this as well as some other work have been delayed as the reactor has not been constructed yet.
Steam generators are heat exchangers used to convert water into steam from heat produced in a nuclear reactor core. They are used in pressurised water reactors between the primary and secondary coolant loops.
Nuclear reactor pressure vessels are thick steel containers that hold nuclear fuel when the reactors operate. They provide one of several barriers that keep radioactive material out of the environment.
The IMED said the project, aimed at generating 2,400MW power, had cost Tk32,458.67 crore in the first four years and a half, which was only 28.7% of the allocation. To complete the project worth Tk113,092.91 crore, Tk80,634 crore more will have to be spent in the next five years.
Two units with two reactors with a capacity of 1,200MW each will generate a total of 2,400MW of electricity.
The IMED report said the import of construction materials by the contractor in line with the demand and their supply to the project site were being disrupted due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
This segment recorded a 23.24% progress.
Long-term manufacturing equipment (LTME) supply progressed 32.86%. LTME construction has been slow due to Covid-19 lockdowns in several European countries, including Russia, and restrictions on visits to foreign specialised manufacturing plants.
This has hampered the achievement of financial milestones in this segment.
Although 1,424 people were supposed to be trained for the project's implementation and subsequent operations of the facility, progress in this segment has been less than 13%.
So far, only 256 people have been trained in Russia in three stages. They have returned to the country while 102 are still in Russia.
Even though 348 people were supposed to be trained this year, no one could go to Russia since March because of the pandemic.
Financial progress rate not satisfactory
The report said the rate of cumulative financial progress of the project had been unsatisfactory.
The finishing work on three of the 19 residential buildings has not been completed yet. Furniture collection for eight buildings is still going on while that for two has not started yet.
The Power Grid Company of Bangladesh was lagging behind even though it was supposed to complete the installation of the required grid infrastructure before the start of power generation.
The report feared that the project's implementation within the stipulated time might be disrupted if the supply of back feed power as per the schedule could not be ensured, and proper conduction as well as construction of grid infrastructure was not done.
Lack of monitoring increasing glitches
The report said there was a lack of oversight in the project's implementation and this was causing various glitches.
So far, only nine meetings of the Project Implementation Committee (PIC) have been held although 38 were supposed to have been held according to the government circular, and 114 according to the development project proposal (DPP).
At the same time, according to the circular, 38 Project Steering Committee (PSC) meetings were supposed to be held while it was 19 in the DPP. However, only nine meetings have been held so far.
The report said no meeting is held regularly and urged officials to pay attention to this matter.
It said many had commented and given various suggestions in the visitors' book kept on the project site, but there was no report on their implementation.
Errors in procurement method
The IMED report said there had been some faults in the procurement system. For example, the same item was purchased in multiple procurement systems.
Multiple dates had been mentioned for inviting tenders, and signing as well as terminating contracts. Also, a lump sum had been allocated for predictable packages.
Indications of project revision
The IMED report hinted at revision of the project.
It said constructing nuclear power plants was a new experience for Bangladesh and that is why contracts, work plans, etc. could not be conceived before the start of the project.
As a result, various issues, including construction and resource collection, had to be coordinated.
Moreover, many items were allocated a lump sum without being divided into detailed packages.
Many concepts became clear during implementation and all those would be given importance in the next revision of the project, the report added.
The Rooppur nuclear power plant, the largest development project in the country's history, was approved in 2016, to be implemented between July of that year and December 2025.
It is being implemented with a loan of Tk91,040 crore from Russia while Tk22,052.91 crore will come from state coffers.