Bangladesh joins nuclear energy club
Marking the historic moment Bangladesh became the 33rd nation to be a user of nuclear fuel, Russian President Vladimir Putin termed the Rooppur power plant a symbol of strong bilateral ties between Dhaka and Moscow.
"Both countries have interests in this project, and it will have a huge contribution to Bangladesh's energy and economic security," he said while addressing the uranium handover ceremony at the plant site in Ishwardi yesterday .
Putin joined the ceremony from Moscow via a video link while Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attended the event virtually from the Gono Bhaban.
Adorned with flags of the Russian Federation and Bangladesh, the plant site wore a festive look as Bangladesh officially received the first batch of the fuel for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant from the project's Russian contractor Rosatom.
"Both countries have interests in this project, and it will have a huge contribution to Bangladesh's energy and economic security."
"The nuclear power plant is another step towards building Smart Bangladesh."
Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), joined the ceremony through video conference.
Terming Bangladesh a tested friend and development partner, the Russian president said the relations between the two countries are based on mutual equity and respect, BSS reports.
Putin said Russia and Bangladesh established ties more than 50 years ago. "At the beginning of the 1970s, the Soviet Union had extended support to East Bengal in its struggle for independence and rebuilding the newly independent country."
Russia is one of the first countries to recognise Bangladesh.
Putin also recalled last year's celebration of the golden jubilee of the diplomatic relations between the two countries and Bangabandhu's historic visit to Moscow.
"Bangabandhu's visit to Moscow was a historical milestone for building ties between the two countries," Putin said, adding, "Sheikh Hasina successfully and with dignity is carrying forward her father's tasks."
Congratulating Bangladesh, he said, "The flagship project meets the interests of both countries and promotes the further deepening of mutually beneficial cooperation."
In her speech, Hasina said, "… the nuclear power plant is another step towards building Smart Bangladesh."
She said the plant has been designed and built keeping in mind natural disasters. She also mentioned that Russia promised to take back the spent fuel.
"We will use nuclear energy to protect peace," she said, expressing her firm commitment to elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide and to the implementation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, BSS reports.
She said it was a day of great pride and joy for the people of Bangladesh.
"Due to the relentless efforts of the Awami League government, Rooppur nuclear power plant is becoming a success today [Thursday] through the adoption of nuclear fuel."
The PM said her government enacted the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Act and established an independent Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority. The BAERA has ensured safety at every level of the plant by maintaining close liaison with the IAEA, she added.
She said the Nuclear Power Plant Company Bangladesh Limited (NPCBL) has been formed through a separate legislation to manage the power plant.
Hasina said the goal is to generate power from the first unit of the plant in 2024 and from the second unit in 2025.
At the outset of the ceremony, a documentary on the manufacturing and delivery of the uranium fuel assembly was screened.
The power plant's Project Director and Managing Director of the NPCBL Md Shawkat Akbar made an introduction to the plant and Science and Technology Minister Yeafesh Osman delivered the welcome address.
Director General Alexey Likhachev of Rosatom, the nuclear energy corporation of Russia, also spoke at the event.
Congratulating Bangladesh, IAEA DG Grossi said the plant would help develop Bangladesh through environment-friendly power generation.
Andrei Petrov, first deputy director general of Rosatom, on behalf of Putin handed the prime minister at the Gono Bhaban a certificate of fuel delivery. Rosatom DG Likhachev handed over a model of the fuel assembly to Minister Yeafesh at the plant site.
Rosatom is building the 2,400MW power plant, and its first unit, with a 1,200MW capacity, is set to be operational next year.
The first batch of the nuclear fuel (uranium rods) reached Bangladesh on a special cargo plane from Russia on September 28. It was transported to the plant site on September 29.
[Our Pabna correspondent also contributed to this report]