First concrete was poured on 30 November for the basemat of unit 1 at Bangladesh’s first nuclear plant,  marking the formal start of construction of the Russian-supplied VVER-1200 reactor. Two 1200MWe units are to be built at Rooppur, on the eastern bank of the river Ganges, with the first unit scheduled to begin commercial operation in 2023 followed by the second in 2024. 

In February 2011, Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom signed an agreement for two 1000MWe-class reactors to be built at Rooppur for the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC). In 2014  Rosatom confirmed they would both be 1200MWe V-392M pressurised water reactors, an evolutionary development based on the VVER-1000, with a design life of 60 years. The reference plant for Rooppur is unit 1 of Russia’s Novovoronezh-II – the world’s first VVER-1200 which began operation last February.

The initial contract for the project was signed in December 2015, and BAEC issued the first site licence for the plant in June 2016, allowing the start of the preliminary works, including geological surveys. The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority (BAERA) issued a design and construction licence to BAEC in October, enabling the plant to move to the construction phase. 

Russia agreed to extend a state loan of up to $11.38bn to finance most of the construction. Of the $12.65bn cost, $10.1bn has been fixed as a base price, $1bn for soil stabilisation and the remaining $1.65bn for price escalation.

Rosatom subsidiary JSC Atomstroyexport (ASE) is the general construction contractor. The equipment for the turbine unit, including steam generators, as well as the heat exchange and pumping equipment, will be manufactured by PJSC Power Machines (St Petersburg). JSC Rusatom – Automated Control Systems (RASU –part of Rosatom) will supply and fit the automated process control system.

At the launch ceremony Rosatom director general, Alexey Likhachov said the facility's potential lifetime of over 100 years (including decommissioning) meant that the two countries were laying the "bases of friendship and cooperation" for present and future generations. Rosatom expects 12,000 Russian specialists including designers, engineers, equipment manufacturers and builders will be involved in the construction of the two units. 

Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed said that by 2024, when both units are operating, the plant would account for around 10% of Bangladesh’s total electricity production. She said her government saw safety as a top priority.

"We're strictly following IAEA safety standard and other relevant guidance as well as international good practices." Wazed also said that training initiatives had been set up. As to waste management. "Russia will take the wastes [used fuel], and we've struck a deal in this regard with Russia," she noted. 

Negotiations are underway to involve India in the project, although there is no formal trilateral agreement in place, a Rosatom official said on 30 November.  “There is room for cooperation, and it is possible that India could participate. There was an initiative to draw up a trilateral document, and we supported that document. No document is signed yet, but it is under negotiation,” the expert, told reporters in New Delhi. 

There are two separate nuclear cooperation pacts between India and Bangladesh, and between India and Russia. The expert noted that India has experience in reactor construction, and trained operators at the Russian-built Kudankulam nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu could be used to train Bangladeshi operators.

Photo: Construction of Rooppur 1 started on 30 November