Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant

Another year needed to complete transmission lines

First unit to be operational by December after conducting tests with dummy fuel

Abu Tahar

Bonik Barta photo

The construction work of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant is at the last stage. About 90 percent work of the first unit has been done while the second unit saw 70 percent of its work completed. A decision has been taken to load uranium fuel in the first unit of the power plant in December this year. Before that experiments will be carried out by operationalizing the plant using dummy fuel. As far as the supply of electricity in the national grid is concerned, it will depend upon the completion of the work of transmission lines connected to the plant.       

Before putting uranium in fuel reactor of any nuclear power plant, experiments must be conducted in few stages using dummy fuel. Individuals concerned hope that these tests will be complete within December. However, they are still skeptical about the supply of electricity produced in the plant as the construction of transmission lines has yet to be complete.

Four transmission lines are supposed to be connected with Rooppur power plant. These are 60 kilometer-long Rooppur-Baghabari section, 102 km-long Rooppur-Bogra line, 144km-long Rooppur-Gopalganj line and 147 km-long Rooppur-Dhaka transmission line.    

The lines are being constructed under a project titled ‘Construction of 400 KV and 230 KV River Crossing Transmission Line for Power Evacuation of Nuclear Power Plant on Jamuna and Padma Rivers’. Under the project, the construction of Rooppur-Gopalganj is not yet complete. The work on two kilometer river crossing for 400 KV single line is still ongoing. Rooppur-Dhaka transmission line has 14 kilometer of river crossing. Power Grid Company of Bangladesh Limited (PGCB) regards this part as the most challenging task of all.

“River crossing is a very complicated process. Work was stalled for a long time due to financing-related complication and workforce crisis in the project. Although it is said that it will take one year, actually another 18-24 months are required,” a PGCB official told Bonik Barta on condition of anonymity.      

According to officials of the organization, the construction of larger transmission lines is scheduled to end by June, 2025 although as per the PGCB website the project is still at the initial stage. Some 14 percent physical progress of this long transmission project has so far been achieved while the fiscal progress stands at 13 percent.

“There are quite a few transmission lines connected with Rooppur. Apart from 400 KV and 230 KV river crossing lines, we have opened the remaining lines,” PGCB Managing Director AKM Gause Mohiuddin Ahmed told Bonik Barta. “If Rooppur power plants opens by the end of the year, it is possible to begin the supply of electricity through the lines that are in place. We are working in coordination with the Rooppur authorities. We hope the work on all the transmission lines will be complete before fully operationalization of two units of the plant.”     

Rooppur power plant is a fast track project of the government. Officials concerned claim that this power plant is different from other ones. An unfinished transmission line may pose threats to the power supply activity of Rooppur. PGCB officials held a series of meetings with their Russian counterparts in the plant on preparing transmission infrastructure. But, they could not come up with any specific timeframe on the supply of electricity in the national grid.

Experts say that readiness of the transmission lines at the time of opening the nuclear power plant is very important indeed, as this is so different from other power plants.      

When contacted, Professor Dr Shafiqul Islam of Dhaka University’s Nuclear Engineering Department told Bonik Barta, “There is an international guideline on commencing operation of a nuclear power plant.

There are at least four phases in the lead up to the commencement. Especially, the pre-commissioning activities, involving cold state and hot state, need to be completed. Then, using real fuel, you have to go to full power gradually from zero. After that fuel is to be loaded at final phase. The results of these activities will have to be provided to the regulatory bodies. After all thse procedures, the plant can be made operational.”

According to project sources, all the preparatory activities with regard to the opening of the first unit of Rooppur are at the final stage. The testing of different machineries has already started. It will take at least 5-7 months to complete this. Everything will depend on successful testing of every single machinery. After the successful completion of these tests, uranium fuel will be loaded in the reactor. This is called physical startup of the project. Before this, a delegation from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will visit the project area. The license to use nuclear fuel will be available after the approval of the IAEA.

About the progress of Rooppur plant, Project Director Dr Zahedul Hasan told Bonik Barta, “Overall, 90 percent of the work of first unit are already complete. Fuel will be loaded in December. Coordinated work among all concerned is in progress to ensure supply of electricity in the national grid quickly.”

As per earlier schedule, the first unit was to be operational on December 23, 2022 and second unit on December 27, 2023. The project work was due to close with the handover of first unit on October 13, 2024 and second unit on October 17, 2025. But, this project has now been pushed back by two years to 2027. The decision to extend the project was approved in a meeting of the joint coordination committee in Dhaka in February.

Russia is providing financial and technical assistance to implement the Rooppur nuclear power plant project. In 2016, Russia signed an agreement with Bangladesh to provide $11.38 billion. According to updated information from Economic Relations Division (ERD), as of December 31, over $6.27 billion of the promised fund was released. On September 28, last year, uranium for the plant arrived in the country. This has been preserved in the project area. 

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