Bangladesh has marked a significant milestone by receiving its first shipment of uranium fuel from Russia, a crucial step in its journey towards becoming the 33rd country in the world to harness nuclear energy.
This endeavor is a collaborative effort between Bangladesh and the Russian state-owned atomic company, Rosatom, involving the construction of two nuclear power plants. The majority of the $12.65 billion project, approximately 90%, is financed through a Russian loan, which comes with a repayment period of 28 years and a generous 10-year grace period.
During a momentous video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her pride and joy, terming the occasion a “day of pride and joy for the people of Bangladesh.” The Russian Embassy in Bangladesh even dubbed it a “nuclear fuel delivery ceremony.”
In response, President Putin extended his gratitude to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for its supervision of the project. This collaboration had its origins in a bilateral agreement established back in 2011. IAEA head Rafael Grossi took to social media to offer his congratulations, highlighting Bangladesh’s remarkable progress in nuclear power development as a success story for newcomer nations in this field, all under the guidance of the IAEA.
The completion timeline of the Rooppur plant, situated approximately 200 kilometers (124 miles) west of Dhaka, has seen several revisions due to construction setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and Western sanctions on Moscow following the Ukraine conflict. Initially scheduled to commence operations in July next year, the first unit of the plant has faced delays.
However, during a recent visit by Sergei Lavrov, the first Russian foreign minister to Bangladesh since its independence in 1971, assurances were given that Moscow remains committed to completing the project on time, despite the obstacles posed by Western sanctions linked to the Ukraine conflict.
Russia’s state news agency, TASS, reported that Rosatom’s engineering division is overseeing the design and construction of the nuclear power plants. These plants are designed to have a lifespan of 60 years, with the potential for a 20-year extension of their operations. Notably, about 1,500 of the 2,000 workers who will operate the plant once it becomes operational will receive training in Russia.
Bangladesh has grappled with its most severe electricity crisis since 2013, primarily due to unpredictable weather patterns and challenges in financing fuel imports. This predicament has been exacerbated by declining foreign currency reserves and a weakened national currency. The country currently relies heavily on imported gas for electricity generation, and the soaring prices of gas, triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, have further compounded its energy woes.
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