Many people have expressed fear over the use of nuclear technology in Bangladesh in producing electricity despite bitter experiences of the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters.
In view of such fear, many local experts have expressed serious concern over the safety of nuclear technology in a densely populated country like Bangladesh. They expressed concern about radiation leakage in case of accidents and the precautions.
However, the project officials say that the latest technology, known to be one of the safest from Rosatom, is being used in Rooppur. There will be five layers of high security. So, the concerns of any accidental leakage and subsequent radiation are out of the question.
Russia is building a 2400 MW nuclear power plant in Rooppur in Pabna which started in 2018 at a cost of about Tk 1,13,093 crore.
A former scientist of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Shahid Hossain said the fear has not abated. Ignorance is also a cause of fear. Those who live near these types of power plants are less afraid, but those who live far away are more afraid.
"Besides, there are many theories about nuclear power plants, such as reactors, which can never be trusted. Fear has not abated for this," he added.
There have been three major accidents with the world's nuclear power plants so far, including the latest at the Fukushima plant.
However, safety measures have been stepped up to reduce the risk of accidents at the nuclear power plant following the accident at Fukushima. Russia's VVER-1200 model power plant has five levels of safety measures to prevent accidents.
Science and Technology Minister Yeafesh Osman said Bangladesh is not making any compromise to ensure the maximum security of the power plant.
“The clear position of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is that no compromise can be made on the question of security even if it costs some extra money. That is why, we have given top priority to Rooppur’s security,” he said.
Many scientists are convinced about the safety of the current technology nuclear power plant. However, quality verification and supervision is required at every stage of the construction.
The atomic scientist said, "There are some major issues like, for example, the pressure vessel, pumps, valves, and others. We have to monitor and check whether the major components are being made properly at the time of the construction."
Dr Md Shawkat Akbar, project director, and the managing director at the Nuclear Power Plant Company Bangladesh Limited said, “We are internationally responsible for this power plant as well as the people of the country. The plant is being built with the priority of Safety, Security and Safeguard.”
"The vendor country assured that radiation will not cross international standards beyond 300 metres from the reactor house in normal or even in an emergency situation. Apart from this, there is another equipment called core catcher, which was discovered after the Fukushima incident and has already been launched in the world. It provides catching the molten core material of a nuclear reactor in case of a nuclear meltdown and prevent it from escaping,” he added.
Speaking about the core-catcher's function, he said that if there is any situation like in Fukushima, radiation and reactor materials will be melted and fall beneath the land and will be protected. The plant has all safety measures to face any man-made and natural accident.
The core catcher is like a well into which it falls into a seal. That means it won't spread radiation. And its slogan is Make More Safer, More Safer and More Safer. And the latest core catcher will be used in the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.
Another project official said that uranium, the most widely used fuel for nuclear power, will likely to be loaded into the reactor of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant by end of 2023. But before that safety measures have to be ensured, which will be certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) visiting team.
As per the integrated work plan with the IAEA, five missions of the IAEA will visit the project site by mid-2023 and before the fuel loading. The Russian Federation will not deliver fuel until physical safety is ensured.
Dr Shawkat said it is the supplier's responsibility to deliver fuel with necessary security protection. So, it is the Russian Federation's duty to ensure a safe and secure fuel supply.
As per the nuclear fuel export control policy and the IAEA guidelines, the Russian Federation will have to inform the IAEA when and what types of fuel they are going to supply to Bangladesh.
Every power plant's fuel has a unique number. The producer sets the number after production and informs it to the IAEA before supplying it to power plants.
He said, "Fuel movement, fuel handling, storage, and even loading in the power plant will be done following international standards and guidelines."