A nuclear reactor and a steam generator, the key components of the first unit of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, arrived in Bangladesh yesterday, paving the way for completing the main phase of the mega project.
Traversing 14,000km, a ship carrying the equipment reached Mongla Sea Port in Khulna from Russia around 4:00pm yesterday. The components weigh 673.6 tonnes, said project officials.
"The arrival marks a major milestone in the construction of our dream project with a total capacity of 2,400MW," Md Shawkat Akbar, project director of the nuclear power plant construction project, told The Daily Star.
The ship carrying the VVER-1200 reactor pressure vessel and the steam generator left for Bangladesh on August 20. The components were manufactured at the "Atommash" plant in Volgodonsk, the largest nuclear engineering production site in Russia. The reactor vessel weighs 333.6 tonnes and the steam generator 340 tonnes.
Now, these will be first shifted to a special barge for transportation to the Rooppur construction site in Pabna's Ishwardi upazila, about 160 kilometres northwest of the capital.
Those will then be sent through rivers from Mongla via Kawkhali, Barisal, Chandpur, Mawa and Rajbari to the newly constructed Rooppur river port near the power plant site.
The special barge carrying the components is expected to leave Mongla port on November 5 and reach Rooppur river port on November 21, according to a press release by the science and technology ministry.
In easy terms, a nuclear reactor is a device in which nuclear chain reactions are initiated, controlled and sustained at a steady rate. The life cycle of a reactor is 60 years with the possibility of further extension, according to Russia's State Atomic Energy Corporation, Rosatom.
Each reactor unit comprises a reactor and four circulation loops, with each loop having circulation pipelines, a reactor coolant pump and horizontal steam generator.
Amid growing demand for electricity, the government moved to build the country's first-ever nuclear power plant in Pabna and gave Rosatom the task of implementing it. The government put this ambitious mega project on the list of 10 top priority projects or fast-track projects for completing it on time.
The power plant will have two units -- Rooppur Unit-1 and Unit-2 -- with a power generation capacity of 1,200MW each. A third-generation technology is being used to construct the plant with a five-layer security system.
The first unit is expected to go into commercial operation by 2023 and the second one by 2024.
The foundation stone of the Tk 113,092-crore power plant was laid in October 2013 and construction began on 1,062 acres of land in November 2017.
Project officials said that as of August this year, the project saw 37 percent progress and there will be a major leap in its implementation once the reactor is installed.
"The real progress will be visible from January next year," said a project official seeking anonymity.
Md Shawkat Akbar said, "The reactor for the second unit will arrive in the country soon."
The work of loading uranium fuel to the first reactor will begin in February, 2023, he mentioned.
The project director said they expect to supply power to the national grid from April 2023 on a test basis, and that there will be a test run for a year.
Project officials said the containment walls of the first reactor building have already been built, and construction of the second building will be completed by next year.
The reactor support truss in Unit-1 has already been installed. The purpose of the support truss is to fasten the reactor vessel and to bear its weight loads.
Besides, the work of manufacturing other machinery and equipment for the plant is going on in full swing, mentioned the officials.
They said the government plans to meet 9 percent of the country's electricity requirement from nuclear power. It also seeks to reduce dependence on fossil fuels by the middle of the next decade when both reactors of the new power plant will be in operation.
With the first nuclear power plant at Rooppur, Bangladesh will become the third Asian country -- after India and Pakistan -- to harness the power of atoms.
Nuclear power plants built with VVER-1200 reactors are characterised by an unprecedented level of safety, which allows them to be classified as generation "3+".