Russia has agreed to provide $500 million to finance the initial stages of Bangladesh's first nuclear power project. Preparatory work could begin at the Rooppur site in 2014.
The agreement was signed during a state visit to Russia by Bangladesh's prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, who described the Rooppur project as a "shiny example" of the two countries' "deeper engagement." The loan will fund preparatory work such as site surveys, feasibility studies and environmental impact studies. Russian president Vladimir Putin said in a press statement that Rosatom was "getting ready" to build Bangladesh's first nuclear power plant, adding that some 20% of the country's existing electricity generation capacity had been built with Russian assistance.
According to RIA Novosti, Rosatom head Sergei Kiriyenko said that preparatory work could begin at the reactor site in 2014, with construction beginning in earnest in 2015. He said that contracts for on-site surveys would need to be signed during the first quarter of 2013, followed by contracts for feasibility studies, detailed design and engineering design, with a contract for preparatory site works signed by the end of the year.
Bangladesh has been considering embarking on a nuclear power program for over five decades, and Rooppur, about 200 km north of Dhaka, was earmarked for the country's first plant as long ago as 1963. The country has worked steadily towards the goal of using nuclear power to help meet its rapidly increasing energy demand and reduce dependence on natural gas, and in February 2011 the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission signed an agreement with Rosatom for two 1000 MWe-class reactors to be built at Rooppur. A 2011 Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency to Bangladesh concluded that the country had made "notable progress" in its nuclear infrastructure development, and recognised the country's strong expertise in safeguards, security and radiation protection.
The raft of agreements signed during Hasina's Russian visit included an agreement to establish a high-tech information centre on nuclear energy in Dhaka to educate and inform the people of Bangladesh about nuclear power. The centre, which will be housed in the Bangladeshi capital's planetarium, will combine a panoramic 3D view, computer graphics and animation, stereo sound, interactive consoles and personal displays, according to Rosatom.
Seventeen such information centres are already in operation in Russia, and Rosatom plans to establish more in those countries where Russian nuclear technology is to be built. The Dhaka facility, which Rosatom says will start operating this year, will be the third overseas centre following on from centres in Vietnam and Turkey.