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Power & Energy - October 9, 2023

RNPP: Security risk in meeting fuel demand

Rabiul Haque: By acquiring uranium from Russia, the RuppurNuclear Power Plant (RNPP) in Pabna has now become an internationally recognized facility. Russian President Vladimir Putin, participating for the first time in an event of this project with technical and financial support of the country, made it clear that the Rooppur power plant in Bangladesh will be fully operational in 2026.
Rooppur nuclear power plant is going to be commissioned after six decades. The project has not progressed significantly in five decades. In the last eight years, the government of the ruling Sheikh Hasina has built nuclear plants. If the two units of the power plant are fully operational, 10 percent of the energy demand of the country will be met. The cost of fuel will also decrease. This project will contribute two percent to the country’s GDP. Socio-economic development will happen along with creating employment opportunities for the locals around this project.
In 1961, the then government of Pakistan took the initiative to build a nuclear power plant at Rooppur in Pabna. After the independence of the country, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took the initiative to start the work of the power plant. Then the work stopped. Four decades later, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina signed an agreement with Russia to implement the project. Russia is giving most of the money of this project as loan assistance at the cost of Tk 1 lakh 14 thousand crore.
Bangladesh received ‘fresh nuclear fuel’ or uranium from Russia for the first unit after the construction of the power plant started in 2013 in just 8 years. Now the power generation will start only after completion of other activities including transmission lines to connect to the national grid.
Last October 5, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Russian President Vladimir Putin completed the process of handing over the energy by officially participating in Rooppur nuclear power plant. Through this, the country entered the world’s 33rd uranium fuel era. Bangladesh has also received the International Atomic Energy Agency certificate.
Although the use of nuclear energy is quite risky, the government is building nuclear power plants using the latest technology keeping in mind the energy consumption and meeting the electricity demand.
Locals are optimistic about this project. They say, if the project is implemented, it will benefit us. However, we are happy if the government pays extra attention to prevent accidents from happening.
A local person named Mamun Sarkar told Daily Industry that due to the implementation of such a big project, economic development is taking place here. It will also meet the demand for electricity. However, it is important to ensure the safety of nuclear power plants. We want there to be no security risk.
Another person named Abdul Momin said that nuclear power plant will contribute significantly to the country’s economy if it can prevent safety risks and environmental pollution. It is said that utmost precautions have been taken in the construction of Rooppur nuclear power plant. If so, hopefully the people of the entire north will benefit. This project will play an important role in the economic development of the region.
In 1986, an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine killed many people. In 2011, Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant explosion has not been forgotten by the world. 19,500 people died in that explosion. More than 1 million high-rise buildings collapsed.
Regarding how safe a nuclear power plant like Rooppur is for densely populated Bangladesh, the project stakeholders say that the risk is low as the latest VVER technology is used. Even then, if an accident occurs, the radioactivity will not spread.
Those concerned with Rooppur nuclear power plant project said that in the construction of Rooppur nuclear power plant, all domestic and international obligations have been fulfilled and international standards have been followed. Rooppur nuclear power plant has been built under the strict supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency. There is no danger of accidents in this state-of-the-art power plant. More than necessary security measures have been taken. Extra carefully added ‘Core Catcher’. As a result, radioactivity will not spread even in unexpected situations.
Rosatom Corporation of Russia is the general designer and contractor of Rooppur nuclear power plant project. The project will consist of two units. Its nuclear reactor has five levels of safety measures. Fuel Pellet, Fuel Cladding, Pressure Vessel, First Containment Building (Inner), Second Containment Building (Outer). Among them, the first containment building inside the reactor is 1.2 meters thick, which will prevent radioactivity from spreading into the environment under any circumstances. A second containment building has been constructed outside the nuclear power plant to keep it safer. The second containment building at Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant is 1.5 meters thick. It will provide protection from natural calamities, plane crashes. The power plant, built using state-of-the-art technology, has been designed in such a way that it will survive an earthquake of magnitude 8 and an aircraft weighing 5.7 tonnes. In addition, the nuclear power plant will be protected even in strong cyclones and floods.
For the safety of the nuclear power plant, there will be no settlement within 300 meters of the nuclear reactor. There will be 23 radiation observatories in the next 20 km. Monitors will be drawn in 45 places. Ordinary people will know the radiation levels from these monitors.
Bangladesh has been recognized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by proving its ability to meet international standards in safety and management. The latest technology is used in the eco-friendly security system. Added core catcher as extra precaution. There is no way for the radioactivity to escape through the safety zone.
Project Director of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant Md. Shaukat Akbar said that as Rooppur nuclear power plant is designed, there will be no settlement within 300 km where the radiation zone will be. We have achieved the assurance of providing the nuclear model in accordance with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) requirements, in compliance with national security and international security commitments. We have security measures in place.
Two units are in operation at Rooppur Nuclear Project. If all goes well, the first unit will go into production in September next year and the second unit in 2026. The project director also said that 2400 megawatts of electricity will be produced in the two units.
Each unit of Rooppur nuclear power plant consists of Russian VVER reactor three plus generation nuclear reactors. Nuclear scientists call this reactor pressure vessel the ‘heart’ of a nuclear power plant. There are no examples of accidents in such power plants so far.
There is strict security in the project area. And Bangladesh Army is performing this security duty. There is no chance for general public to enter the project area. Even the family members of the 23,000 officials and employees working on the project cannot enter, said the workers there.
An official, who did not want to be named, said that strict security measures are being observed in the project area. No one can enter except the officials here. We cannot even bring our family members.
Science and Technology Minister Yafes Osman said that three plus generation reactors have been installed in the power plant so that there is no risk. A latest technology core catcher has been installed. Apart from this, an agreement has been made for waste management. International regulations will also be followed.
Professor of nuclear engineering department of Dhaka University Md. Shafiqul Islam told Daily Industry that the most modern technology has been used here, thinking about Fukushima or Chernobyl accidents. No one in the world building nuclear power plants wants such an accident to happen. Due to which modern technology and core catcher are being used. Chances of accidents are very low. Because here hydrogen can’t come in contact with oxygen, inactivation system is kept. If everything melts at high temperatures the core catcher will bind. He also said that where there used to be one containment building, there are now doubles. It will also be safe from external or natural calamities. Measures have been taken to prevent release of radioactive materials into the environment through core catcher.

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