Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Pabna will contribute to ensuring a better living for the people of Bangladesh.
The government will overcome the current energy crisis just as it has recovered from the coronavirus pandemic, the premier said while virtually inaugurating the installation of the reactor pressure vessel at Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant Unit-2 on Wednesday.
Sheikh Hasina urged everyone to be cost-effective and maintain austerity in the use of electricity.
"Our aim was to provide electricity for all, which we have achieved and were able to illuminate the entire country," the prime minister said.
"But due to the world energy crisis, even developed countries are suffering. So is Bangladesh," she said.
"We paid heed to the overall safety and security of building the power plant. Safety was our main concern. Building a power plant is a very risky job," she said, mentioning some of the deadliest power plant accidents in the world's history, such as the Chernobyl disaster.
In October last year, the prime minister inaugurated the reactor pressure vessel at the first unit of the plant that enabled Bangladesh as the 33rd country to have a nuclear reactor for producing electricity from nuclear energy.
Science and Technology Minister Yeafesh Osman chaired the programme while Alexey Likhachev, director general of Rosatom, Russia's Atomic Energy Organisation spoke as the special guest.
Ziaul Hasan, senior secretary at the ministry of science and technology, gave the welcome address.
Science and Technology Minister Yeafesh Osman said, "With this, Bangladesh is very close to producing electricity from nuclear technology."
Following the Russia-Ukraine war since February this year, uncertainty grew over the future of the project but the work continued uninterrupted.
As per the project plan, the first unit of the nuclear power plant will supply 1,200MW in 2023 and the same amount of electricity will be available from the second unit in 2024.
A reactor pressure vessel holds nuclear fuel when reactors operate and provide one of several barriers that keep radioactive material out of the environment.
The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission is implementing the Rooppur project with the technical and financial support of Russia.
The project's construction cost, including manpower training, amounts to $12.65 billion, and 90% of it is being funded by Russia.
From the date of its commercial run, the plant is expected to produce electricity for a lifetime of a minimum of 60 years while the economic life of a conventional power plant is 25 years.
Besides its long-lasting service, the plant will also help Bangladesh generate electricity without emitting carbon dioxide into the environment which is a common externality in conventional power plants run mainly on coal, gas, and oil.
Yeafesh Osman said that the installation of almost all types of nuclear equipment will be completed by installing the reactor pressure vessel inside the physical structure of the second unit.
"As of now, the work of the project is going on as per the timeline and we are hopeful about completing the project within the deadline," he added.
Regarding the power generation and transmission, the minister said, "We are committed to completing the construction work within the timeline. The readiness of my side is not all for power generation, the party that will purchase the electricity needs to be ready with its transmission line."
However, work on some components of the transmission line to evacuate electricity from this plant has not been started yet, said a source at the Power Division.
Nuclear scientist and the project director of the power plant Md Shaukat Akbar said the project has seen around 53 % financial progress and 55% physical progress. However, the overall progress of the first unit is 70%.
"Now we are in the stage of commissioning work of the first unit which we are expecting to start in October next year," he added.
He said the power plant's fuel – uranium – is expected to arrive in Bangladesh in September next year.
The project director said the loan repayment will start two years of the commercial operation when the plant will earn revenue by selling power.
"The $11.38 billion loan will be paid in 20 years," he added.
Around 33,000 people are working at the plant site, including 5,500 foreigners.