New Delhi: Bangladesh has become the newest entrant into the nuclear club with the construction of two atomic power plants. It will be the third South Asian country after India and Pakistan to access nuclear energy -- a development that could alter the power structure in South Asia.
Hectic construction has started in Rooppur, 160 km from Bangladesh capital Dhaka, where two 1,200 MW power plants are being built with Russian help. The first of Rooppur's two units will be commissioned in 2023, the second a year after.
India is also helping with the project, Atomic Energy Commission chairman Sekhar Basu was reported as saying by news agency Press Trust of India. In April, India signed a civil nuclear cooperation deal, along with two more agreements, with Bangladesh under which the two sides can supply and manufacture equipment, material for the atomic power plant.
This will also be India's first atomic energy venture abroad. Indian nuclear establishment has not been able to grow due to sanctions imposed on New Delhi after the 1974 Pokhran tests.
The formal inauguration of the construction today was attended by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and Alexey Likhachev, Director General of ROSATOM, Russia's State Atomic Energy Corporation. "The first concrete" marks the start of the main construction phase of Rooppur project.
The license for the design and the construction of the two plants had been given by the Bangladeshi Regulatory Authority or BAERA on November 4.
Currently more than 2,200 employees are at work at the site - the number includes 450 Russian specialists. In the main construction period, the total number of employees will reach 12,500, a figure that will include 2,500 specialists from Russia.
The two reactors of the Rooppur plant will not be very different from India's reactors at Kudankulam, which have been built by Russia's Atomstroyexport.
The VVER-1200 reactors have been developed by Russia at the Novovoronezh power plant and it has already been commissioned there.
The design fully meets international safety requirements. This year (which month), the power unit at Novovoronezh Phase II was named among the three best nuclear units in the world by the high-profile US-based periodical Power.