Changing perceptions on nuclear energy | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 25, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:48 PM, December 25, 2017

Changing perceptions on nuclear energy

Besides nuclear safety, Rosatom is working on public acceptance of atomic power

Since work began on the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant project, a total of about 200 people, including journalists, experts, environmentalists, school children, students and industry experts from Bangladesh have visited Russia.

Public acceptance affects both the implementation of individual nuclear energy projects and our industry as a whole. At Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation, we give the highest priority to nuclear safety. Our second priority is to change the public perception about nuclear energy. This is a crucial objective for us—our industry partners and international organisations, including International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

We respect every country's choice whether to develop nuclear energy or not. But, it is crucial that this choice be based on scientific knowledge, not fear. It is important for us to tell the public and government, and scientific and expert communities that nuclear energy is clean, safe and economically beneficial.

In Russia and other countries, where we are building nuclear facilities, we are systematically working on improving public acceptance of nuclear energy. Today, more than 70 percent of Russians say “yes” to the peaceful use of the atom.

The foundation of our approach to public acceptance is the promotion of a direct dialogue with all the concerned parties. From experts to students, journalists and officials—there can be no exception—the distinctive feature of nuclear power projects is that they affect all possible groups of stakeholders. Direct contact with each target group is the key to successful communication. The basis of this approach is stakeholder involvement and education.

In this scheme, the media are both the target audience and the medium to reach out to the rest of the audience. We are seeking to raise awareness and improve the understanding of journalists working in both print and electronic media through press conferences and seminars. Annual press tours are conducted to various Russian nuclear energy objects to create better understanding. Since work began on the Rooppur NPP, more than 30 Bangladeshi journalists, including those from Pabna and Ishwardi, have visited Russia.

Besides these visits, interaction is going on with the local population as well. This is another key factor in the successful implementation of the Rooppur NPP construction project. The places where nuclear power plants are already in operation, the level of support for nuclear energy is traditionally high. However, where there are no plants, you need to talk to people—sometimes one has to begin by explaining the basics.

To that end, on December 24, we opened a public counselling office next to the Rooppur NPP to inform Pabna district residents about each stage of construction and the operation of the station. We will do our best to be as open as possible so that everyone who is interested has the opportunity to come and ask questions about the project. We received supported in this from our colleagues in Bangladesh at the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission and so on. We are in constant contact. Work is done almost every day.

Another driver of public acceptance is education. We are proud of the fact that exchange of youth in the sector of science and technology has emerged as an important paradigm of Russian-Bangladeshi relations. More than 70 Bangladeshi students study nuclear engineering in Russia. This year young people from Bangladesh have been invited by Rosatom to attend major events such as the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students in Sochi and the Forsage 2017 International Forum for Young Power Engineers and Industrialists.

Such trips are of an exploratory nature and are carried out at the request of our Bangladeshi colleagues. The recent visit by local public representatives was to the innovative Unit 6 of the Novovoronezh Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), which is a prototype for the new plants not only in Russia but also abroad, including Bangladesh. Two of the same power units with VVER-1200 reactors of the 3+ generation will be constructed by Russia at the Rooppur NPP. We are glad that we have the opportunity to acquaint our partners with the latest Russian technology—high-performance, durable, environment-friendly and safe.

The Unit 6 was put in commercial operation in February 2017. It has improved technical and economic performance and fully complies with the IAEA post-Fukushima requirements. Among them are systems that are unique and unrivalled in the world, such as the passive heat removal system (passive safety systems are capable of functioning even in the event of a total loss of power and without the operator's intervention), the hydrogen recombiners and the molten core catcher.

Andrey Shevlyakov is the acting CEO of Rosatom South Asia. Rosatom is a key partner in implementing the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant project.

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