by Staff Writers
Dhaka (AFP) Jan 23, 2013
Bangladesh will start building its first nuclear power plant by October this year after signing a loan deal with Russia to fund the construction, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced Wednesday.
The Rooppur nuclear power plant in the country's northwest will have two reactors with each producing 1,000 megawatts and it will be built with the help of Russian state-owned nuclear giant Rosatom, Hasina said.
The plant is seen as a necessary but risky move by the power-starved country to diversify its energy mix as Dhaka has been overwhelmingly relying on its fast dwindling gas reserves to produce electricity for its booming economy.
"Rosatom has shown special interest to start the main construction work of the nuclear power plant within this year," Hasina said, briefing reporters on a $500 million loan deal she signed with Russia last week.
"Design has to be complete by May. Construction area will be prepared by August and the main construction work will begin by September-October," she said.
She said soft loans from Russia would finance 90 percent of the plant, estimated to cost around $4 billion, with an initial half a billion loan to be used for preparatory work.
The prime minister dismissed safety concerns, saying that Russia would take back and deal with the nuclear waste.
Bangladesh's atomic energy agency signed a deal with Rosatom in November 2011 to build the plant, but work has been delayed as Dhaka had to ratify a series of laws to make sure it addresses all safety issues.
Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko had said the Rooppur plant would be designed to avoid the kind of accidents that took place at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant following an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
Bangladesh has long suffered severe power outages as demand for electricity soars on the back of a booming economy that has grown at around six percent a year since 2004.
The power crisis worsens in the summer when the gap between demand and supply shoots up to 2,000 megawatts per day due to years of under-investment.
Officials say Bangladesh needs to build the nuclear plant because reserves of is main source of energy -- natural gas -- are fast depleting and could run out in a decade.
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