Bangladesh accepts proposal for safer reactor tech


After a long debate, Bangladesh has finally agreed to the Russian contractor’s decision to change the reactor technology for better safety for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.

It was originally planned that 3rd generation VVER 1000 reactor, with a capacity of 1,000MW, would be installed at Rooppur. But now, VVER 1200 reactor, with around 1,200 MW capacity, will be used.

VVER, which stands for Water-Water Energetic Reactor, is a series of pressurised water reactor designs for nuclear power plants originally developed in the Soviet Union, now Russia.

Currently operating Russian VVERs are safer designs than those used during the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The VVER 1200 is an evolution of the VVER 1000 design, with better safety mechanisms in place such as faster shutdown, passive heat removal system and a core catcher, which will come into use in case there is a massive accident like the one in Japan’s Fukushima in 2011.

The passive heat removal system utilises a cooling system and water tanks built on top of the containment dome. A core catcher is made from special concrete ceramic to prevent material from trickling through.

VVER power stations are or will be used by Argentina, Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, Jordan, Hungary, India, Iran, Slovakia, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia and Vietnam.

At a meet the press programme in Dhaka yesterday, Maksim V Elchischev, in-charge of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP), said: “According to high-level decisions made in a meeting at Vienna on September 15, the Bangladesh party informed it had finally chosen VVER 1200 for Rooppur NPP, including the required latest safety systems.”

He also said that the designs will be altered taking into account seismic, climatic and other conditions, particularly considering the lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster four years ago.

In March 2011, an earthquake-triggered tsunami damaged the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Japan causing nuclear meltdowns and release of radioactive materials.

The VVER 1200 designs have been updated so as to better handle such nuclear meltdowns and contain spread of radioactivity.

Elchischev, also the new vice-president of JSC NIAEP, said the general contract for RNPP will be signed by the end of this year.

When asked whether adopting the new technology would increase project cost, he said this cannot be disclosed until the signing of the general contract.

The main task now is to sign the general contract and four associated contracts for nuclear infrastructure establishment in Bangladesh, nuclear fuel supply, NPP maintenance and for spent nuclear fuel treatment system, he also said.

Rosatom, Russia’s state atomic energy corporation, will build, operate and provide fuel for the plant. JSC NIAEP is an affiliate of Rosatom.

Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC), under the Science and Technology Ministry, will implement the project.

When contacted, Bangladesh’s Science and Technology Minister Yeafesh Osman told the Dhaka Tribune: “Bangladesh agreed with Russia to build two VVER 1200 reactors at Rooppur. Rosatom wanted to install the VVER-TOI reactor which uses Third Generation Plus technology and has a capacity of 1250MW.

“But the VVER-TOI reactor, developed by Russian scientists, has not been used in any nuclear power plant except for just the one plant in Russia, that too is now on test run.

“But VVER 1200 reactor is a certified one,” the minster said.

Russian Ambassador in Dhaka Alexander A Nikolaev, who attended the meet the press yesterday, said Russian President Vladimir Putin has accepted Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s invitation.