Bangladesh stepped into the nuclear power producing club as its energy sector took a giant leap forward with the official reception of the first batch of uranium for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant on Thursday.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Russian President Vladimir Putin virtually joined the milestone event from Ganabhaban and the Kremlin, respectively, when the fuel handover was held at the project site in Pabna's Ishwardi.
The Bangladesh prime minister extended her gratitude to President Putin for Russia's support to the project. In reply, the Russian president said the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant would remain a "symbol of strong bilateral ties" between Dhaka and Moscow.
Mentioning Bangladesh as "the emerging economic power", Russian media outlet RT wrote the Rooppur plant is expected to be operational next year, providing much-needed energy to the country.
A representative of Russian energy major Rosatom handed over the certificate and model of nuclear fuel to Sheikh Hasina.
"Bangladesh will be turned into a smart country in future, and the nuclear power plant is another step towards building that Smart Bangladesh."
The model of the fuel assembly was handed over to Science and Technology Minister Yeafesh Osman by Rosatom Director General Alexy Likhachev at the plant site in Ishwardi.
With the establishment of the Rooppur plant, Bangladesh has become the 33rd nuclear power-producing country in the world, said the minister.
'Russia to take back spent fuel'
PM Hasina said, "Bangladesh will be turned into a smart country in future, and the nuclear power plant is another step towards building that Smart Bangladesh."
She also said the design and construction of the plant is being carried out keeping in mind that the nuclear power plant is not damaged during any kind of disaster.
She mentioned that Russia has promised to take back the spent fuel of the nuclear power plant to their country.
"We have signed an agreement with the Russian Federation for the management of spent fuel. They will take this spent fuel back to their country," she added.
"We will use nuclear power to protect peace," said the PM, expressing her firm commitment to the complete elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide and implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
"The Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant would remain as a symbol of strong bilateral ties between Dhaka and Moscow."
Congratulating Bangladesh on its graduation to nuclear power, President Putin said, "Both countries have interests in this project and it will have a huge contribution to Bangladesh's energy and economic security."
"The flagship project meets the interests of both countries and promotes further deepening of mutually beneficial cooperation," he said.
Terming Bangladesh as a tested friend and development partner, the Russian president said the relations between the two countries are being established on the basis of mutual equity and respect.
"Russia is not just building a station, we will provide assistance to our Bangladeshi partners throughout the entire life cycle of the nuclear project," said Putin, as reported by Russian media outlet RT.
Putin said Russia and Bangladesh established their ties in the field of mutual cooperation more than 50 years back.
'Electricity would be cheaper'
Addressing the ceremony, Minister Yeafesh Osman said, "Rooppur is a well-known name in the world today. This has been possible due to the cooperation of Russia."
He hoped that this project would accelerate industrialisation in the northern region of the country, which is comparatively marginalised.
"Levelised cost of the nuclear electricity would be cheaper than other existing fossil fuel-fired electricity," he added.
Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev said, "We managed to achieve the power plant after many days of hard work. Construction of the first unit is almost complete. The reactor of the first unit will be commissioned by the end of next year. We have ensured all security. The manpower of Bangladesh is being trained and made suitable to manage the plant."
He added that some 23,000 people, of whom 18,000 are Bangladeshi nationals, are working at the plant. The rest are Russian experts.
Rosatom has been engaged in building the power plant with two units, each having the capacity to produce 1,200MW of electricity.
The Rosatom boss continued that once completed, the plant will create jobs for 20,000 people. "The plant has a lifespan of 100 years, which will serve a few generations. Rosatom will always provide support to the plant."
Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), said, "Bangladesh is set to benefit from nuclear power. All compliances of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant with international standards have been ensured. Bangladesh is getting the certificate by ensuring all types of safety and security."
Officials said the Rooppur plant will play a leading role in meeting the country's carbon emission reduction targets. At the same time, it will reduce the cost of power generation in a flash.
The project layout said the power plant will generate 2,400 MW of electricity per day, reports BSS.
Md Shawkat Akbar, project director of the construction of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant Project, told the media that around 90% construction work of the first unit and 70% of the second unit has already been completed.
The first batch of uranium, the nuclear fuel of the first unit of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, arrived in Bangladesh on 28 September.
The consignment came from Russia through a special air cargo and it was transported to the nuclear power plant site by road under heavy security the next day, reports UNB.
The fuel was produced at the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant (NCCP) in Russia, a subsidiary of Rosatom's fuel manufacturing company Tevel.
The nuclear reactor of the first unit of the power plant was loaded in October 2021 while the reactor for the second unit was installed in October 2022.
Once the nuclear fuel is loaded into the power plant's reactors, power can be produced for one year. After that, the fuel will have to be reloaded into the reactor.
The government conceived the idea of setting up the RNPP project in 2009 and signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia on 13 May 2009 on the "Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy."
On 15 January 2013, an agreement regarding State Export Credit of $500 million was signed for carrying out preparatory phase construction works of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.
The government signed a $12.65 billion general contract (GC) in 2015 with Moscow for building the nuclear power plant.
Bangladesh signed a credit agreement with Russia to obtain $11.385 billion in credit for the power plant in July 2016. The credit covers 90% of the project cost.
The Ministry of Science and Technology recently said that the first unit of the plant may come into operation in July 2024 and the second unit in July 2025.
According to the World Nuclear Association website, the countries using nuclear energy include the US, China, France, Russia, South Korea, Canada, Ukraine, Germany, Japan, Spain Sweden, Belgium, the UK, India, Czech Republic, Finland, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Pakistan, Hungary, Slovakia, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, Romania, Argentina, the United Arab Emirates, Belarus, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Iran and Armenia.