It is no secret that Rooppur NPP is the epitome of the friendly relations between Russia and Bangladesh. Our ties are deeply rooted in history. Russia (then the Soviet Union) became one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh as an independent country. Since then our states have always maintained good and trusted relations as a secure foundation for further cooperation – including that in the nuclear field.
In order to create its own nuclear industry, it was necessary for Bangladesh to find a partner with vast knowledge, practical knowhow and proven expertise in the field. There were other important issues like financial arrangements, selecting a fitting and safe technology, skilled manpower training, management of radioactive waste and spent fuel. Russia eagerly extended its friendly hand and offered Bangladesh a well-balanced and comprehensive solution.
Eventually, this cooperation came to fruition. Within only seven years since the start of construction works, a truly outstanding progress in the nuclear sphere has been made. As stated by the Rosatom State Corporation Director General Alexey Likhachev during his recent visit to Bangladesh, “the construction works on the first unit of Rooppur NPP are almost over, so we expect the unit to start pilot operation by the next year’s end. The work on the second unit is in full swing too – concrete works on the inner containment dome are finished, main circular pipeline has been welded ahead of schedule”.
Safety has always been our utmost priority, right down the line. The flagship VVER-1200 reactors will stand in the heart of Rooppur NPP power units. These reactors have proved their efficiency and reliability during operation at the reference Russian power plants. Today five such reactors are in place – four of them in Russia and one in the Republic of Belarus. Active construction of such reactors is also underway in Hungary, Egypt, Türkiye, China and, of course, Bangladesh.
VVER-1200 are generation III+ reactors, which comply with the latest post-Fukushima safety norms. That means, they have active and passive protection systems, which make NPP proof against both external and internal impacts. All modern Russian nuclear VVER-type reactors have the dome system (which is called containment) for the protection against extreme stress. Containment consists of an external wall of reinforced concrete and an internal protection dome – the latter ensures air-tightness and can endure the outside pressure caused by a 30 kPa explosion. In order to withstand it the containment is constructed with the use of a special ‘pre-tensioned concrete’ – the metal rods are tightly strained inside the concrete cover so that the structure is more stable during earthquakes, for example.
One of the special technical protection feature of such type of reactors is a molten core catcher (or simply a ‘core catcher’). This device is a 144-ton metal bell-shaped container, which in case of emergency keeps the molten core inside and does not let it go beyond the leak-proof walls of the reactor building. The core catcher is filled with special material that helps the molten core lose some of the accumulated heat. The chemical processes emerging during such interaction create the conditions for the corium to stay and cool down. The device exhibits supreme safety features, e.g. the increased earthquake, hydrodynamic and crashworthy resistance.
All in all, one of the remarkable features of the modern VVER-type reactors is a truly unique safety system – a storage pool for spent nuclear fuel inside the leak-proof containment, filters on the exit areas of the inter-containment ventilated space, the molten core catcher and the unrivaled heat removal system. All these technical solutions allow us to consider the VVER-1200 as the reactors of III+ generation.
In this context, it is noteworthy that the nuclear fuel for VVER-type reactors has its own safety system. In fact, it literally is the safety system in itself. Each uranium pellet is made of enriched uranium cooked in a special high temperature kiln – as a result, the pellet receives a protective ceramic cover. After that, all pellets are packed in airtight zirconium rods, which serve as the second layer of protection. Then all the rods are organized into fuel assemblies and placed inside the reactor – the third protective layer.
This exact type of fuel was delivered to the first nuclear power plant in Bangladesh on October 5, 2023. The solemn Graduation Ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Vladimir Putin, Minister Yeafesh Osman and Rosatom Director General Aleksei Likhachev. The dream of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was coming true right before their eyes.
Media scarcely mentioned the fact that this particular batch of fuel for Rooppur NPP is a modernized one. Its lifespan has been increased from 12 up to 18 months, which is definitely going to contribute to the energy security of Bangladesh. Thus, it can be called a double achievement.
Moreover, around 1000 Bangladeshi specialists have been trained in Rosatom Technical Academy or other higher educational institutions and now are ready to start operating at the Rooppur NPP. As the Russian President noted during his speech at the Graduation Ceremony, “Russia is not merely building an NPP, we are supporting Bangladesh in establishing a brand new sector of economy”. Rooppur NPP helps to create thousands of workplaces for local people, dozens of Bangladeshi companies provide their services and materials for the construction works – apart from the electricity itself. According to Minister Yeafesh Osman, Rooppur NPP will become an impetus for the growth of the Northern regions increasing country’s GDP at 2%. As we can see, the Rooppur NPP is going to provide safety and security in many ways.
All in all, in spite of the increased geopolitical instability, Russia is committed to further cooperation with Bangladesh in the field of peaceful atom. Keeping in mind the ongoing energy crisis, the atomic energy is a sustainable solution for Bangladesh, and Russia is ready to provide the full spectrum of nuclear technologies. Constructive cooperation between our two countries undoubtedly meets the interests of people in Russia and Bangladesh and contributes to regional stability and security. It is evident that the Rooppur NPP Project will ensure a brighter – and safer – future of the Bangladeshi people.
H.E. Mr Alexander Mantytskiy
Russia to Bangladesh