Bangladesh on Thursday received the first uranium shipment from Russia to fuel the country’s only nuclear power plant, still under construction by Moscow. Once finished, the plant is expected to boost Bangladesh’s national electrical grid and help the South Asian nation’s growing economy.
The Rooppur power plant will produce 2,400 megawatts of electricity — powering about 15 million households — when the twin-unit facility goes fully online.
The plant is being constructed by Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear energy corporation. Moscow has funded the construction with a $11.38 billion loan, to be repaid over two decades, starting from 2027.
Once Rooppur starts production, Bangladesh will join more than 30 countries that run nuclear power reactors.
The uranium, which arrived in Bangladesh late last month, was handed over to the authorities at a ceremony in Ishwardi, where the plant is located, in the northern district of Pabna on Thursday.
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Russian President Vladimir Putin joined the ceremony — both by video link.
Putin said the plant will cover about 10 percent of Bangladesh’s energy consumption when launched. He said more than 20,000 people worked on its construction and that over 1,000 people were trained to operate it.
“Together with you, we are building not just a nuclear power plant, but the entire atomic industry,” Putin said.
Hasina said that Russia has promised to take back the spent fuel from Rooppur and she also assured her nation that the plant is safely constructed against damage from natural disasters.
On Thursday, Aleksey Likhachev, head of Rosatom, handed over the fuel at the function to Bangladesh’s Science and Technology Minister Yeafesh Osman, according to the United News of Bangladesh news agency. The report provided no other details on the amount of uranium that was shipped.
Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the UN nuclear watchdog — the International Atomic Energy Agency — also joined by video conference, the report said.
Osman was cited as saying the first unit at Rooppur will become operational in July 2024 and the second in July 2025. The fuel is expected to allow the reactor to operate for one year, after which more fuel will have to be loaded.
The uranium was produced at the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant in Russia, a subsidiary of Rosatom’s fuel manufacturing company TVEL.
Bangladesh and Russia have traditionally maintained good relations, which haven’t changed in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Dhaka has signed several contracts with Moscow on cooperation in the nuclear power industry, trade and finances, and in other sectors.
Bangladesh has planned to rely less on natural gas, which now accounts for about half of power production in the country. It is also setting up coal-fired power plants while it has a long-term plan to source 40 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydroelectric power by 2041.