Rosatom, the Russian nuclear energy major, has officially handed over uranium to the Bangladeshi authorities for the country’s first nuclear power plant. The Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, being constructed by Russia in the Pabna district, is set to become operational next year, providing much-needed energy to Bangladesh’s emerging economy. With the receipt of radioactive fuel, Bangladesh becomes the 33rd country in the world to use nuclear fuel.
The historic ceremony was attended virtually by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi. Putin expressed Russia’s commitment to providing assistance throughout the life cycle of the project, including long-term fuel supply, maintenance, and management of spent nuclear material. He also emphasized Russia’s role in training highly qualified personnel for Bangladesh’s nuclear industry.
Prime Minister Hasina expressed her gratitude to Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, highlighting India’s partnership in the project. Indian companies are working as contractors in the construction of the power plant, and Bangladeshi specialists are receiving training in both Russia and India. Hasina emphasized that the commissioning of the power plant is a significant step for Bangladesh’s economic development and the signing of an agreement with Russia on the removal of spent nuclear fuel.
The director general of Rosatom, Aleksey Likhachev, attended the ceremony in person and described it as a new stage in Russian-Bangladeshi relations. He emphasized that the delivery of nuclear fuel marks Bangladesh’s possession of peaceful nuclear technologies. Architect Yeafesh Osman, the Bangladeshi minister of science and technology, expressed his joy at the achievement and the fuel delivery certificate received on October 5.
Aleksey Deriy, the director for the Rooppur NPP construction project, highlighted the significance of the event for the project’s progress. He stated that it demonstrates the readiness of the site, infrastructure, staff, and security for running the first unit of the plant. Bangladesh is now joining the “elite club of nations that use nuclear energy.”
The first batch of uranium arrived in Bangladesh last week, transported from Russia through a special air cargo and then moved to the plant under heavy security. The fuel was produced at the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant in Russia, a subsidiary of Rosatom’s fuel manufacturing company, TVEL. The Rooppur NPP, located 140km west of Dhaka, is Bangladesh’s largest infrastructure project to date and a crucial step in transitioning away from coal and other fossil fuels.
The project began in 2009 with the signing of an Intergovernmental Agreement between Bangladesh and Russia. Several intergovernmental credit agreements worth around $12 billion were signed to finance the project. The foundation stone for the Rooppur NPP was laid in 2013, and construction began in 2017. The plant is being built according to the Russian VVER-1200 design, with commissioning experience from the Novovoronezh NPP.
Despite complications caused by Western sanctions on Russia, the project has remained on schedule. Rosatom faced pressure alongside Bangladesh due to the pandemic, disruptions in global logistics, changes in the supply chain, and external political pressure. However, the cooperation between the two countries has persevered.
Bangladesh also faced challenges in paying debt installments to Russia due to key Russian banks being disconnected from SWIFT. A solution was found by settling the payments in Chinese yuan. In addition, in February, the Bangladeshi government blocked 69 Russian ships carrying equipment for the plant, citing violations of Western sanctions. Moscow responded by expressing its concern about the impact on bilateral relations. To overcome this obstacle, a plan was devised to transport the equipment by road, increasing time and cost.
Despite these challenges, the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant is moving forward, and Bangladesh is set to become a member of the nuclear power club. The project represents a significant milestone in Bangladesh’s development and its pursuit of clean and sustainable energy.