N-plant the need, but safety first

Energy experts caution govt at Star roundtable

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Participants at a roundtable “Nuclear Power in Bangladesh: Prospects and Concerns” in The Daily Star Centre in the capital
yesterday

Energy experts have endorsed the government plan for nuclear power plants to meet the growing energy demand but at the same time warned of the safety issues.
They emphasised the importance of trained and competent technical manpower to operate nuclear reactors and ensure their safety.
The suggestions came at a roundtable styled “Nuclear power in Bangladesh: prospects and concerns” at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka yesterday.
Nuclear energy is a viable alternative source of electricity generation amid depleting fossil fuel and increasing concern about emission of greenhouse gases from it, said Abdul Matin, former chief engineer of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC).
Bangladesh plans to produce 2,000 megawatt of electricity using nuclear energy by 2023 to meet the demand for 21,993MW and another 4,000MW by 2030 to meet the demand for 33,708MW.
The government has recently signed an agreement with Russia to build a 2,000-MW nuclear power plant.
Matin, who presented a paper at the discussion, said he wondered why a feasibility study on the project in Rooppur had not been done in the last four years. How did the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) approve Tk 5,242 crore for the first phase of the project, without knowing its total cost?
The area around Rooppur is densely populated, Matin said, adding, “In case of a nuclear accident, it will be necessary to evacuate three million people residing within a radius of 30 km of the plant, to a safe zone.”
Mohammad Shawkat Akbar, project director of Rooppur plant and also director of BAEC, said everything was being done as per the guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
“We cannot eliminate the possibility of accidents, but we can reduce the probability,” said former IAEA director Jasim Uddin Ahmed.
Nuclear plants were not being discouraged around the world despite concerns over safety issues, said former BAEC chairman Muzammel Haque.
BAEC Chairman ASM Firoz said the commission was planning to recruit 1,660 people, including some 500 scientists and engineers.
Mahfuz Anam, editor and publisher of The Daily Star, said safety issues came to the forefront after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011.
“In one side, we need energy. On the other side, we have to ensure safety. We need to know the level of safety the Russian technology will provide. If it is good for the country, we must go for it.”
State Minister for Science and Technology Yeafesh Osman requested the country’s senior nuclear energy experts to inspire juniors and pass on their knowledge to them to materialise the dream of a nuke plant.
He gave an assurance that the IAEA was very much involved in the project.
“We will do nothing bypassing the world body,” he said at the roundtable.
Prof MA Quaiyum, a former BAEC chairman; AAZ Ahmed of Brac Univesity, Mizanur Rahman of the Power Development Board, Prof Khorshed Kabir and Prof Azizur Rahman of Dhaka University, Samina Rahman, chairman of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority; Md Zahedul Islam, chief scientific officer of BAEC; Kazi Obaidul Awal, former BAEC chief engineer and Syed Fattahul Alim of The Daily Star also spoke. The roundtable was chaired by Nooruddin Ahmed, former vice-chancellor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

Source: The Daily Star

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