Nuclear power plants: Bangladesh and global

Photo: 16, 2013
Photo: 16, 2013
    • Bangladesh plans to produce 2000MW of electricity by 2023 and another 4000MW by 2030; the plan for setting up the country’s first-ever nuclear power plant was initiated in 1961;
    • The estimated cost of the proposed plant at Rooppur in Ishwardi upazila of Pabna district is set $1.5-2bn; The first phase (1000MW) of the project will be completed by 2017;
    • Three million people residing within a radius of 30km of the plant near a river;
    • Civil construction likely to begin in September this year;
    • Russian State Atomic Energy Commission (ROSATOM) will build the plant, provide fuel throughout the entire life-span of the power plant, and take the waste away;
    • According to the “self-evaluation report” submitted by Bangladesh to the International Atomic Energy Agency in the middle of 2012, the two nuclear reactors will be of VVER-1000 design. This is a water-cooled and water-moderated reactor reportedly devised in the late 1970s;
    • The tenure of the plant will be 60 years and may be extended by another 20 years;
    • The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) will be implementing the plant and plans to recruit 1,660 people, including some 500 scientists and engineers;
    • The government says it is working as per the guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA);
    • An independent nuclear regulatory authority, Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority, has been formed to work closely with ROSATOM and IAEA;
    • ATOMSTROYEXPORT will conduct 63 tests at the site, 26 of them will be conduct by Bangladeshis.
    • The consultancy firm’s task would be doing the pre-construction work for setting up the plant that involves feasibility evaluation (FE), environment impact assessment (EIA), development and engineering survey, development of the comprehensive programme of engineering survey, anthropogenic conditions at the project area and site, engineering and hydro-meteorological survey, engineering and geodetic survey, seismological and seismic-tectonic studies, engineering and aero-meteorological survey, FE development, EIA development, pre-design works, engineering and geological survey and engineering survey, and environmental studies;
    • ATOMSTROYEXPORT will have to complete the work in 18 months and the government will pay it $45.90m; 10% of the amount will be paid by the Bangladesh government to the Russian company, in advance, within 30 days of signing the agreement. The remaining would be paid under the Russian credit of $500m for the project;
    • The government says at least 62 tests would be conducted for setting up the power plant, and;
    • Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on May 29 said: “We will never compromise on the issues of safety. During my discussion with President Vladimir Putin, I requested him to give us the safest and the latest reactors. He has given me his assurance in this regard. Russia has also agreed to remove the spent fuel in reactors and take the waste back to their country safely.”




    June 2007: IAEA allows Bangladesh to install nuclear power plant

    September 18, 2008: ECNEC approves project to conduct the mandatory research

    May 13, 2009: Bangladesh and Russia sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU)

    May 21, 2009: Framework agreement signed between the countries

    August 1, 2011: Cabinet approves cooperation agreement

    October 31, 2011: Bangladesh government gives nod to security and legal framework development cooperation agreement

    November 2, 2011: ROSATOM and Bangladesh government sign the cooperation agreement

    January 16, 2013: The two governments sign agreement on Extension of State Export Credit for Financing the Preparatory Stage Work on the plant. Under the agreement, Bangladesh will get $0.5bn loan for research and developing technical abilities for the project.

    April 2, 2013: ECNEC approves Tk52.42bn (over $670m) for the first phase (1000MW) of the project, one-fourth of the amount will be provided by the Bangladesh government and the rest by Russian credit;

    July 22, 2013: A 12-strong ROSATOM team visits Rooppur at noon with Bangladesh officials.  A 200-member team will start ground work in the first week of August.


Project Director Dr Mohammad Shawkat Akbar, also a director of BAEC, office- 8120343, mobile- 01715012416



Pro-nuclear Arguments 

•Lower carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gas) emissions than fossil fuels
•Relatively low operating costs
•Known, developed technology “ready” for market
•Large power-generating capacity, baseline power generator
•Less land usage than wind and solar
•Relatively inexpensive compared to other types of energy
•One ton of natural uranium can produce same number of kilowatt hours as 16,000 tons of coal or 80,000 barrels of oil
Anti-nuclear Arguments 
•Safety fears – Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986), Fukushima (2011)
•Worries about terrorist attacks by aircraft, boats or trucks
•High construction costs (usually $ billions and 250% cost overruns not uncommon)
•Long construction time for plants
•Radioactive waste lasts thousands of years, storage is expensive and controversial
•Proliferation concerns – making weapons from stolen nuclear material
•Plants uses large volume of water for heating and cooling
•Pulls money away from investments in renewables
Nuclear and the environment
•In May, scientists reported that level of CO2 in the atmosphere passed a long-feared milestone – above 400 parts per million for an entire day – a concentration not seen on the earth for 3 million years.
•Nuclear is currently the only carbon-free energy source that can provide base load electricity.
•Plants produce virtually no GHG emissions during operation and only very small amounts on a life cycle basis
-According to a NASA report, nuclear power prevented 64 gigatons of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases between 1971-2009. That’s 64 billion tons over 38 years, or almost 1.7 billion tons a year.
– Switching from nuclear to natural gas or to coal is almost  guaranteed to worsen the climate problem
BUT… waste storage and disposal, possible leakage into groundwater, fears of another Chernobyl still leave many cold on nuclear power
The cost of nuclear 
•Construction is very expensive
•Usually overbudget and overschedule.
•Require big government subsidies and other forms of support
•Decommissioning a plant runs from millions to billions
BUT… Analyses from the US, UK, France and Australia put nuclear among the cheaper energy sources measured per megawatt hour. While coal and gas were sometimes cheaper, nuclear was always less expensive than solar, for now. 
The safety of nuclear power

Nuclear accidents tend to get a lot of media coverage. Rightly so. But how many have died from big accidents?

•Chernobyl — 56 deaths from direct exposure and up to 4,000 fatal cancers could result from the exposure: UN. Others put the number much higher.

•Three Mile Island — never conclusively linked to any deaths or health effects.

•Fukushima — Two reports this year found that no immediate health effects from radiation exposure. Although new study shows groundwater has been contaminated.
* Energy produced by coal, petroleum, natural gas and hydropower has caused more deaths per unit of energy generated, from air pollution and from energy accidents.

NASA said despite major accidents, nuclear power prevented an average of over 1.8 million net deaths worldwide between 1971-2009.

BUT…Do we want another Chernobyl? Can we take the chance? Do we want radioactive waste hanging around for 1,000s of years, possibly getting into our water?

Global Trends 

Nuclear renaissance?

•Concerns about climate change and rising costs of fossil fuels = nuclear power industry revival.
•Then came Fukushima.
•Germany is pulling out, to retire its plants by 2020. Other countries started reviewing their programs. International Energy Agency halved estimate of additional nuclear generating capacity built by 2035.
•Mixed picture. IAEA says growth projections are lower but nuclear expected to grow 25-100% by 2030.
Nuclear power in India

“To meet the rising aspirations of our people, the supply of affordable clean energy will be one of our foremost national challenges. Nuclear energy will remain an essential and increasingly important element of our energy mix.” — Manmohan Singh

•Now, 20 reactors in six plants, 3% of country’s electricity

•44 new reactors slated for construction or being built

•India wants to generate 470GW by 2050, more then entire world can produce now.

Sources: Local newspapers and DW Akademie



  1. BEN Newsletter, Vol. 9, No. 25 (June 23, 2013)‏
    [Presented by Bangladesh Environment Network (BEN)]

    $45 Million Allocated for Ruppoor Atomic Power Plant Feasibility Study

    It has been reported in the press that the government has allocated 45 million USD (approximately 360 crores BDT) for feasibility study of the Ruppoor Nuclear Power Plant. This step brings to light various inconsistencies in government decision and steps regarding the project.

    It is clear from this step that the feasibility of the nuclear plant is still under study. Yet the government has already signed a 1.5 billion dollar loan from the Russian government to implement this project. How can this be done when the feasibility of the project is yet to be established? Now a portion of the loan is used to finance the feasibility study. Can such a feasibility study be fair and unbiased?

    Drawing attention to this issue, Dr. Matin, former chief engineer of the Bangladesh Nuclear Energy Commission, wrote an op-ed that was also included in BEN Newsletter some time back. In it, Dr. Matin rightly pointed out that usually feasibility study is carried out using the government’s own funds, and once the feasibility has been established, only then a deal is signed to acquire loan for implementation of the project. Also, the feasibility study need not require a huge budget.

    Yet, Bangladesh government is going for a feasibility study with a huge budget. With Tk 360 crores, the country can build a medium-sized thermoelectric plant! Why so much money is required for a feasibility study? For the sake of argument, if it is found through the study that the Ruppoor Project is not feasible, what will happen to this Tk 360 crores? Who will repay it? What will happen to the $1.5 billion loan? Is the Ruppoor Project meant for taking big loans and wasting and misappropriating that money?

    From the beginning, there have been numerous questions regarding the economic, structural and environmental feasibility of a nuclear power plant in Bangladesh. On top of that, if money allocated to the project gets wastes and embezzled, then it is really a cause for grave concern.

    BEN was already concerned about the Ruppor project on environmental grounds. Sings of waste and embezzlement are making those concerns graver.

    The government must provide adequate explanations to the questions raised by Dr. Matin. This is not a personal matter. Loans taken in the name of the country have to be repaid by the people. So, the public has the right to know whether it is wise to take the loan, and whether loaned money is being used properly.


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