Bangladesh has received the first Russian shipment of uranium fuel for its first nuclear power plant, making it the 33rd country in the world to produce nuclear energy.
The South Asian country is building the first of two nuclear power plants in collaboration with Russian state-owned atomic company Rosatom. Ninety percent of the $12.65bn project is financed through a Russian loan repayable within 28 years with a 10-year grace period.
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“Today is a day of pride and joy for the people of Bangladesh,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said on Thursday during a video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Russian Embassy in Bangladesh called a “nuclear fuel delivery ceremony”.
Speaking with Hasina via a video link, Putin thanked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for supervising the project, which resulted from a bilateral agreement in 2011.
IAEA head Rafael Grossi posted his congratulations on social media.
“Bangladesh stands as a success story for newcomer countries in nuclear power development, advancing its program under the [IAEA’s] guidance,” he said.
Congratulations to Bangladesh on the first fuel ceremony at Rooppur NPP, their inaugural nuclear facility. 🇧🇩 stands as a success story for newcomer countries in nuclear power development, advancing its program under @IAEAorg’s guidance. pic.twitter.com/XhxpkipVgD
— Rafael MarianoGrossi (@rafaelmgrossi) October 5, 2023
Completion of the Rooppur plant – located around 200km (124 miles) west of the capital Dhaka – has been revised several times due to construction being delayed because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and the sanctions on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine.
The first unit of the plant, with a total generation capacity of 2,400 megawatts, was due to start operation in July next year but that has been set back.
Last month, Sergei Lavrov, the first Russian foreign minister to visit Bangladesh since its 1971 independence, assured Bangladesh that Moscow was committed to completing the project on time, despite obstacles from Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
Russia’s state news agency TASS reported that the design and construction of the nuclear power plants is being carried out by the engineering division of Rosatom, and the plant will have a life cycle of 60 years with the possibility of extending its operations by 20 more years. Approximately 1,500 of the 2,000 workers who will run the plant once it is operational will be trained in Russia.
— TASS (@tassagency_en) October 5, 2023
Bangladesh has faced its worst electricity crisis since 2013, according to the Reuters news agency, due to erratic weather and difficulty in paying for fuel imports amid declining foreign currency reserves and a weakened national currency.
Electricity generation in Bangladesh is currently dependent on imported gas, which has risen sharply in price since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.