Uranium, the most widely used fuel for nuclear power, will likely be loaded into the reactor of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant by the fourth quarter of 2023.
After that, nuclear power will be added to the national grid, said Dr Md Shawkat Akbar, project director and the managing director at the Nuclear Power Plant Company Bangladesh Limited, on Thursday while talking to media personnel.
But before that safety measures have to be ensured and a lot of essential infrastructure, such as for power grid and telecommunication, also need to be built like in developed countries, he said, adding that all these have to be certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) visiting team.
As per the integrated work plan with the IAEA, five missions of the IAEA will visit the project site by mid-2023 and before the fuel loading.
The missions will oversee other project related work, such as the country's capability to operate the plant.
"One mission is related to the power plant and five others to national infrastructure. They will oversee our preparation in facing an emergency," said Dr Shawkat.
"The Russian Federation will not deliver fuel until the physical safety is ensured. The fuel import depends on the development of these areas of infrastructure," said the project director.
The first unit of the 2400MW power plant is expected to be connected to the grid by 2023 and the second unit by 2024.
Dr Shawkat said around 50% work on the project will be completed by this year.
The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC), the project owner, inked a contract with Russia's state-run uranium mining and nuclear fuel production company, TVEL, in August 2019 for importing nuclear fuel from 2027 to till the plant remains in operation.
Sources at the BAEC said after every 18 months, one-third of nuclear fuel will have to be changed.
Dr Shawkat said necessary stock of uranium will remain on standby on the project site after the required amount is loaded into the rector.
He said the Russian Federation will provide the fuel for the plant till 2027 under a general contract as part of construction. For that, Bangladesh will not need to pay them.
As per the contract with TVEL, considering inflation of dollars and euros in the international market, the price per kilogram of uranium was estimated at $550 till 2027.
As per a parameter of the Methodology of Contract Price, the cost of refuelling of a single unit will be $62 million each time.
However, the price of the uranium will be evaluated and revised every 10 years.
Talking about uranium price, Dr Shawkat said unlike other fuel prices in the international market, nuclear fuel price does not fluctuate.
Data says the price of uranium fuel price is more stable than any other fossil fuel.
"Every year, there will be 30 to 35 tonnes of uranium for each unit of the plant," he added.
Russia's responsibility to supply uranium with proper safety
Talking about the uranium import management, the Rooppur nuclear project director said it is the supplier's responsibility to deliver fuel with necessary security protection.
"So, it is the Russian Federation's duty to ensure safe and secure fuel supply," he said.
As per the nuclear fuel export control policy and the IAEA guidelines, the Russian Federation will have to inform the IAEA when and what types of fuel they are going to supply to Bangladesh.
Every power plant's fuel has a unique number. The producer sets the number after production and informs it to the IAEA before supplying it to power plants.
He said, "Fuel movement, fuel handling, storage and even loading in the power plant will be done following international standards and guidelines."
"It will be our duty once the fuel is delivered to Bangladesh. Fuel movement in the country will be handled with the highest security protocol," said Dr Md Shawkat Akbar.
No fear of radiation
Talking about the people's safety from the project, he said, "We have both active and passive safety systems in the Rooppur nuke power project."
"The vendor country assured that radiation will not cross international standards beyond 300 metres from the reactor house in normal or even in an emergency situation," he said.
Apart from this, there is another technology named core catcher, a device provided to catch the molten core material of a nuclear reactor in case of a nuclear meltdown and prevent it from escaping the containment building.
Talking about the core-cather's function, he said if there is any situation like in Fukushima, radiation and reactor materials will be melted and fall beneath the land and will be protected.
The plant has all safety measures to face any manmade and natural accident.