In an exclusive interview to The Independent, the deputy director general (DDG) of Russian Federation State Atomic Energy Corporation, “Rosatom”, Nikolay Spassky, spoke at length about the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP).
He said: “We are yet to decide whether we will install VVER-1200 reactors or VVER-1000 reactors as all depends on the project’s design. However, VVER-1200 reactors are believed to be safer.”
Ruling out the risk of earthquake or environmental damage and other related issues in the project area, Spassky said: “We have collected all data and we can say that it is satisfactory,” he told this correspondent on Thursday.
Russia and Bangladesh have initialled the third contract for the preparatory installation and construction work of the RNPP without finalising the loan terms. However, the contract will be signed in Russia next month.
Bangladesh plans to generate 1,000 MW of electricity by 2021 and another 1,000 MW by 2022 from the RNPP. The plant’s tenure will be 60 years with option to extend it by 20 years.
Led by Spassky, the Russian delegation met the state minister for science and technology Yeafesh Osman. The meeting stressed the need for speeding up preparation of documents from the Bangladeshi side for the contract.
Spassky said: “Preparatory work is planned to be completed in 2016. After that the main construction will begin and that might take five to six years as per standard schedule. We plan to launch the power plant having examined all the required data of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Project. We can say the site is all right for the nuclear power project.”
Under the third contract, Russia will set up a civil and mechanical base at the Rooppur site and conduct preparatory installation and construction work.
It may be mentioned that Russia is providing a state credit of USD 500 million to Bangladesh. Russia plans to approve another credit to Bangladesh in 2015 for the Rooppur plant. The N-plant with more than 2,000 MW of capacity, which is proposed for Rooppur, may cost around USD 10 billion.
ROSATOM will follow the local and the IAEA’a rules and guidelines in installing the plant. So, there is no room to hide any information regarding the project which may be “unsafe” or “risky” for the project or for the country now and in future, Spassky claimed.
“We are very transparent and our method of work is participatory; we will involve local people, scientists, academicians to share information about the nuclear power project at Rooppur as safety is our first concern,” Spassky added.
“The IAEA has a Milestone Document that needs development of 19 items by Bangladesh to set up the RNPP. However, the IAEA will help Bangladesh in fulfilling the needs as per the document,” he said.
Speaking to this correspondent, Spassky said Bangladesh needs huge electricity to run its economy and at the same time it needs to go for energy mix as it does not have enough option for primary fuel. “Human resources and funds crunch are the biggest concern for this country. If Bangladesh wants to expedite the process to set up a nuclear project, the ‘milestone document’ is the fastest way to overcome the problem,” Spassky said.
Talking about the credit issue, he said: “It is a business secret. We cannot share the information about the financial deal.” Spassky, however, said it would be 100 per cent Russian loan. When asked about the project cost, Spassky said: “We are yet to calculate it. However, the cost would depend on technology. We can look ahead with confidence and optimism to the future of nuclear power in the 21st century and Bangladesh needs to start its job to develop its human resources to run the project in its own way. But it needs some time to create skilled manpower here.”
Regarding the plant’s safety, Spassky said the use of nuclear power will continue to increase across the world, especially in Asia and the Middle East. Even a country like Qatar is now thinking about energy mix, so we need to exercise more caution about the safety and awareness of the nuclear project, he added.
The IAEA member countries also want a stronger role for the IAEA in monitoring the setting up of a nuclear power plant.
The DDG official also said that setting up of a nuclear plant is a very expensive venture and Russia is keen on supporting Bangladesh in terms of finance and technology. “But if we calculate the cost of a nuclear plant over a lifetime stretching between 30 and 50 years, then we could say that the fuel is cheap,” he added.
Speaking about the project’s transparency, he said ensuring transparency about a nuclear plant is a big challenge. However, the government can gain public confidence by providing exact facts and figures.
According to the IAEA, there are now a total of 434 nuclear power plants in operation across the world and 69 plants are under implementation, he added. Another 80 to 90 nuclear plants will be built in the next two decades. Bangladesh, Jordan, Nigeria, Turkey and Algeria are the new entrants to the nuclear power sector.