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Rooppur power generation to get delayed until July 2024

Originally posted in The Business Standard on 24 December 2022

Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant is going to miss the December 2023 deadline to go into production as German company Siemens AG has refused to supply the gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) for the project’s substation.

Country’s biggest ever project in terms of cost and foreign investment, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant’s first unit will not be able to start production before July 2024, but the authorities have decided to receive the GIS service from a Chinese firm, said officials from the project and the Ministry of Power on Thursday while visiting the Rooppur site at Ishwardi, Pabna.

Addressing the media after a meeting with project officials, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid, however, said the progress of the first unit of the plant is around 87% and the project of the power grid is also good.

“But Covid caused a delay. We expect that the entire of next year will be needed and we would be able to evacuate power by mid-2024,” he said.

Talking about the progress of the power transmission line, Nasrul Hamid said, “During the pandemic, engineers could not work. On the other hand, river crossing work was also delayed because of the tender process.”

Secretary of the Power Division Habibur Rahman, Rooppur nuclear project’s Director Dr Md Shawkat Akbar and Power Development Board Chairman Mahbubur Rahman also visited the project site Thursday.

Science Minister Yeafesh Osman had said on 18 October that the work of the project was going on as per scheduled time frame.

“We are hopeful of completing the project within the time,” said Yeafesh Osman.

At that time, Project Director Shawkat also told the media that they were in the stage of commissioning work of the first unit, which they were expecting to start operation next October.

He also said the power plant’s fuel, Uranium, was expected to reach Bangladesh in September 2023.

But, on Thursday, the project director claimed that the unit will be readied by June 2023.

“If all the supportive issues are settled, it would be ready to produce electricity by 2024,” he added.

German company not supplying GIS service

A substation, through which the power plant’s electricity would be connected to the national power transmission line, is due to be constructed by the same contractor that is implementing the plant.

However, German industrial manufacturing company Siemens AG recently rejected to supply the necessary items for the GIS service for the substation.

Subsequently, the general contractor decided to procure the equipment from an alternative supplier to comply with the terms of readiness of GIS for installation in November 2023, said Alexey Deiry, vice-president of Atomstroyexport, in a presentation on the update of the project Thursday at a meeting with the officials of power ministry.

Now, the authorities have selected Chinese firm SIEYUAN Electric Ltd to procure the necessary equipment.

Recent media reports claimed that a Russian ship carrying project materials for the Rooppur plant, currently under US sanctions, was denied permission to dock in Bangladesh.

Asked about the issue, the project director said, “This is a matter of the foreign ministry. They will be able to address this issue better.”

Also asked if the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war has any impact on the project, he refused to comment on any effect of the Western sanctions on Russia.

Power purchase agreement by June

Rooppur nuclear project, the maiden nuclear power generation project in Bangladesh, is expected to be a cheaper and cleaner source of electricity.

The latest generation 3+ Russian VVER 1200 reactor will be used for power generation, which complies with all international safety requirements.

Regarding power tariff, the state minister said, “We are expecting that the per unit electricity rate would fluctuate between Tk4kWh to Tk5kWh.

We have already prepared the draft of the power purchase agreement (PPA) and hope it will be signed by the middle of the next year.