Sputnik (Rooppur): The construction of the first unit of the Rooppur nuclear power plant — the first joint initiative under the Bangladesh-Russia cooperation in the atomic sector — is on in full swing and is expected to be completed on schedule. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Deputy Prime Minister of Russian Federation Yury Borisov jointly inaugurated the RNPP unit-2 construction work on Saturday afternoon at Rooppur. Director of International Atomic Energy Association [IAEA] Dohee Hahn was also present at the inaugural ceremony. Sputnik spoke to Bangladesh's minister of science and technology on the significance of the NPP and its bearing on Bangladesh-Russia relations.
Sputnik: How important is the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant to Bangladesh?
Yeafesh Osman: To have a Nuclear Power plant has always been a dream of Bangladesh since its very inception. The founder and first President of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rehman nurtured this dream and it has been an ambition of his daughter and the present Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to pursue this dream. This dream has finally become a reality with the support of Russia.
Yeafesh Osman: The construction of the first unit has already begun and progressing as per schedule. And the ceremony for the pouring of concrete for the second unit took place on Saturday. This is the third time our PM is coming to the project site, which shows the importance this project has for our country and its people. Usually the PM is expected to visit a project site once at the time of foundation-laying and then on the completion. But we expect a few more visits of her to Rooppur.
Sputnik: What does the project mean for the future of Russia-Bangladesh cooperation?
Yeafesh Osman: This project is extremely important to the people of Bangladesh because we are not only concerned with the electricity it would generate, but also the technological expertise it will gift to the country. So use of this sophisticated technology will not only produce electricity, but will lift the whole country. Once this project is completed, Bangladesh will be lifted to the status of 33rd country to have this capacity and technology used for electricity.
The Rooppur Nuclear Project is the second major joint effort by Russia and Bangladesh towards achieving a common goal. Once it was in the past during the liberation war of Bangladesh and now the second time for this nuclear project. That is the good thing about the relationship between Russia and Bangladesh. We remain grateful to this day to the then Soviet Union for the help during our liberation war.
Sputnik: To what extent do you expect the Rooppur NPP help Bangladesh meet domestic power demands?
Yeafesh Osman: It will serve at least 60 million people. This is big number. If you ensure energy supply to the people, they will change their own lives and that is happening in Bangladesh now.
Yeafesh Osman: The energy master plan we have charted out stipulates 20% of the energy supply in the near future from Nuclear Power Plants. For that matter we will need more nuclear power plants and we have started looking for sites. Our prime minister is also looking into this, and it could be an island-like place where people are not there or where the population density is lower. It will take some time but this is definitely part of the master plan. However, we have severe fund constraints as of now. Even in this project, 90% of the funds were given by Russia as an advance. We will of course return the money with interest, but to start another big project simultaneously is the prerogative of our prime minister and I cannot say anything on that.
Sputnik: If all goes well, will you consider Russia as a partner for you next NPP project?
Yeafesh Osman: This is a futuristic question, but definitely the working relation through this project will give an added advantage to Russia.
Yeafesh Osman: Yes, we are already using the nuclear technology in agriculture. Agriculture is very important to Bangladesh. We are a small country with so many mouths to feed so a lot of research is being done on adapting nuclear technology in the farming sector.
Sputnik: How is the young generation in Bangladesh taking to nuclear science and technology?
Yeafesh Osman: This is an entirely new technology for Bangladesh. We are seriously considering imparting basic education in nuclear science at the school level for the children to have a firsthand knowledge of nuclear power. Some of our universities have degree courses in nuclear technology.
Sputnik: Is Bangladesh sending its people to Russia to obtain training in nuclear science?
Yeafesh Osman: As part of the Rooppur NPP project, 1,600 Bangladeshis will be trained in nuclear technology in Russia. So you can see the level of cooperation here.