12:00 AM, December 27, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 27, 2012

N-power deal with Russia next month

$500m first-phase loan finalised; interest rate comes down

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M Abul Kalam Azad

Bangladesh and Russia will sign a $500 million deal in January to complete the pre-construction phase of the nuclear power plant to be set up at Rooppur in Pabna.
"The first-phase deal on Russian loan is expected to be signed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Moscow visit scheduled for mid-January," State Minister for Science and Technology Yeafesh Osman told The Daily Star yesterday.
Yeafesh was among a 15-member delegation that returned from Russia on Tuesday after a successful loan negotiation.
"Shifting from its previous stance of 4.5 percent interest rate, the Russian side has agreed that the rate would not be more than 3 percent. They have also agreed to provide 90 percent of the total cost of the nuke plant," he said.
Earlier, Moscow assured Dhaka it would provide 85 percent of the total cost. A 1,000-megawatt nuke plant would cost Tk 12,000 crore to Tk 15,000 crore.
The two sides have agreed that Bangladesh will repay the first-phase $500 million (around Tk 4,000 crore) loan in 10 years with five years of grace period. They have also reached an understanding that the second-phase loan will be repaid in 28 years with 10 years of grace period.
Bangladesh will complete all the preparatory work of the nuke plant, including conducting tests, preparing designs, providing training and developing site with the $500 million, the state minister said.
Yeafesh added the total costs of the plant would be determined during the first phase.
During Hasina's visit, Moscow and Dhaka would ink a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the second phase loan deal. "The memorandum of understanding will clearly spell out the interest rate, repayment period and other conditions," Yeafesh added.
Asked if the 3 percent interest rate was still much higher, the state minister said, "You will hardly find any donors for this kind of project. The World Bank and other donors don't offer loans for such projects."
Insiders at the science and technology ministry say at least two years is needed to complete the preparatory work or pre-construction phase. That means construction, which usually takes five to six years for a 1,000 MW nuclear plant, won't start before 2015, they add.
"Bangladesh will have its first nuke plant if everything goes smoothly," said a senior official of the ministry.
Yeafesh said an info centre would be set up at Bangabandhu Novo Theatre with Russian financing. People would learn about the plant and its safety measures from that centre, he added.
Acting Finance Minister of Russia Sergey Storchak led his side that included officials of the Russian foreign ministry and Nuclear Energy State Corporation (Rosatom).
In the last four years, the government has made considerable headway in meeting the requirements specified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for building the long-cherished nuclear plant to resolve the country's energy crisis.
A number of deals, framework agreements and MoUs have already been signed with Russia for peaceful use of nuclear power, technology transfer, creating human resources to run the plant, supply of required fuel and taking spent fuel back.
Earlier in 1961, the then government decided to build a nuke plant, and accordingly acquired 292 acres of land -- 260 acres for the plant and 32 acres for offices and residences -- in Ishwardi of Pabna.

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