- Power supply from the plant may be disrupted even if it goes into production on time
- Uncertainty remains over work being done by public organisations, including PGCB, BTCL and BIWTA
- Finishing both miscellaneous work and the main plant construction on time the biggest challenge now
- Constructing transmission lines has come to a halt due to second wave of Covid-19
- Officials optimistic about the project's completion on schedule
The Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Department (IMED) fears that power supply from the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant will be disrupted even if the plant goes into production on time.
This is because the construction of transmission lines, telecommunication infrastructure, and other miscellaneous work is not progressing at the same pace as the construction of the plant's two units, an IMED report says.
The report, prepared following a visit to the project area in early April, says the biggest challenge now is to finish both the miscellaneous work and the main plant's construction on time.
The plant's construction has two aspects. One is building a turnkey-based nuclear plant, which a Russian contractor is doing. As per agreement with the contractor, work on the plant's main part will be finished by 2025.
But uncertainty looms over the work being carried out by the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, Public Works Department, Northern Electricity Supply Company Limited, and Bangladesh Railway.
The testing of various equipment of the plant will start in January 2022. As part of this, the supply of 100MW back feed power to the project area must be ensured by December 2021, the IMED report says.
Fuel loading of the plant's first unit will be completed in February 2023. According to international rules, the grid system should be ready at least two to three months prior to fuel loading. Thus a grid system suitable for the plant must be built by December 2022.
But the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh's grid work and other supporting work are still behind target. The IMED has recommended that the company complete the work fast through coordination by formulating a special action plan.
Officials said $1.6 billion obtained under the Indian line of credit (LOC) is being used to finance the project. Loans are also being used to construct the power transmission infrastructure.
Under the terms of the LOC, the Indian authorities' consent needs to be obtained repeatedly at different stages, including preparing tender documents and appointing contractors. This is delaying the construction of the transmission infrastructure, sources at the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh have said.
Under the project, 464km, 400kv transmission lines are being constructed in four packages. Of them,102km will be built from Rooppur to Bogura, 144km from Rooppur to Gopalganj, 147km from Rooppur to Dhaka, and 51km from Amin Bazar to Kaliakair.
Moreover, a six-kilometre line will be built over the River Padma and a seven-kilometre line on the River Jamuna.
Power Grid Company of Bangladesh officials have said deals had been signed with contractors for all the packages between January and March after the tender process was over and the project's progress was 15% till March.
They said the construction of transmission lines had almost come to a halt due to the second wave of Covid-19.
Golam Kibria, managing director of Power Grid Company of Bangladesh, said they were hopeful that the project would be completed on schedule if the pandemic did not linger.
"We have signed the contract for building the required transmission lines, except for those to be built on rivers. The back feed transmission line from Baghabari is under construction and we are working to complete it within this year," he said.
The Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited is constructing the infrastructure necessary to communicate with various stakeholders outside the plant during the normal operation of the facility and also in case of emergency.
This should be finished by 2022 before fuel loading, while an integrated action plan needs to be made so that this work progresses simultaneously with that on the main plant, the IMED report says.
No visible progress of the work has so far been observed.
But Md Rafiqul Matin, managing director of the Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited, said work had already started and hopefully the project would be completed on schedule.
"We have already prepared a draft project proposal and submitted it to the science and technology ministry on 16 February this year. A meeting of the selection committee was held on 7 March and the committee instructed us to conduct a feasibility study."
He added, "If everything goes well, the Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited will start the project from the beginning of the next financial year, with a target of completing the work before the plant goes into operation."