Bangladesh’s Rooppur nuclear power plant will be ready on time, but power generation delayed

The Tk 109.8 billion transmission project is unlikely to be completed before the middle of next year, according to officials.

Rejaul Karim Byron, Asifur Rahman

Rejaul Karim Byron, Asifur Rahman

The Daily Star


The Tk 109.8 billion transmission project is unlikely to be completed before the middle of next year, according to officials. PHOTO: COLLECTED/THE DAILY STAR

August 21, 2023

DHAKA – The much-awaited Rooppur nuclear power plant is coming along at more or less the expected pace but the country has to wait longer to enjoy the benefits as the power evacuation facility from the plant would not be ready on time.

One of the two projects for power evacuation from Rooppur, which was taken up in April 2018 for completion by December this year, saw 63 percent physical progress and 47.78 percent financial progress as of June, according to the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB). The Tk 10,981 crore transmission project is unlikely to be completed before the middle of next year, according to officials.

The physical progress of the other project, which was taken up in July 2022 for completion by June 2025, is just 5 percent and the financial progress is 7.47 percent as of July 3, according to PGCB.

Under the project, 7 kilometre-long 400 kV and 230 kV double circuit lines crossing the Jamuna river and a 2 km-long 400 kV single circuit line across the Padma river were supposed to be set up at a cost of Tk 6,056.3 crore.

“It will not be possible to start test production unless the power evacuation facility is up and running,” said a top official of the Tk 113,092 crore Rooppur power plant project on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly on the matter.

As of July, the Rooppur power plant in Pabna has seen 60 percent physical progress and 58 percent financial progress, according to a report of the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division on the status of eight fast-track projects taken up between 2009 and 2016.

The project has reached its most important stage: fresh nuclear fuel will soon be delivered to the site, which will mark the transition of the nuclear power plant under construction into the status of a nuclear facility and make Bangladesh a member of the “nuclear community”.

The first unit of the Rooppur nuclear power plant was scheduled to start commissioning in March next year and the other unit a year later.

Another fast-track project, the Tk 16,000 crore Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant in Rampal, is yet to begin full-swing operation for lack of transmission facilities and dredging in the Pashur river, according to the IMED report.

The project’s physical progress is 94.64 percent and financial progress is 89.93 percent.

The deadline for the project was February 2023, and one unit of the plant has already gone into operation in December last year. However, it is yet to reach its maximum production capacity, the IMED report said.

For power supply from the plant, a 400 kV Ameenbazar line and a 230 kV Khulna line have been readied.

However, it has not been possible to supply full evacuation from the operational unit. On the other hand, when the Payra plant is operational, less electricity from the Rampal plant can be supplied through the Ameenbazar line, the IMED report said.

Besides, coal supply to the Rampal plant has been interrupted as navigability in the Pashur river has reduced amid a lack of dredging. Dredging in the Pashur river will not begin before June 2024, according to the Mongla port authority.

“There is no limitation to evacuating the power from Payra and Rampal — we are transmitting what they are producing,” AKM Gause Mohiuddin Ahmed, managing director of PGCB, told The Daily Star.

He said the IMED report might be dated.

“We have issued the clearance a long time back that we can evacuate the total electricity from both the Payra and Rampal power plants,” Ahmed added.

The second unit of the Rampal plant is expected to go into commercial operation in October this year. The plant will require about 80 lakh tonnes of coal in the next three years as fuel consumption.

For uninterrupted coal supply, the IMED suggested the Bangladesh Bank ensure adequate dollars.

However, one of the fast-track projects, the much-talked-about Padma bridge, was opened for vehicular movement in June last year — which is ahead of schedule. Only 1 percent of the physical work now remains, while the financial progress for the project is 89 percent.

The Tk 39,246 crore Padma Bridge Rail Link Project saw 81 percent physical progress and 75.5 percent financial progress, according to the report.

As of July, the Tk 4,374.47 crore Payra deep seaport project achieved 90 percent physical progress and 86 percent financial progress.

The Tk 33,461 crore Dhaka Metro Rail project, known officially as the Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project Line 6, has recorded physical progress of 78 percent and financial progress of 68 percent.

Metro is running from Uttara to Agargaon, and from October, it will be ferrying passengers up to Motijheel. The rest of the line — from Motijheel to Kamlapur — is under construction.

Another project the Moheskhali-Matarbari Integrated Infrastructure Development project has 12 components including a 1,200 MW power plant.

The Tk 51,854 crore project has made 77.70 percent physical progress and 64.91 percent financial progress.

The project was undertaken in 2014 with a deadline set for full implementation by December 2026.

The physical progress of the Matarbari port and the power plant is 94 percent and the power plant’s initial synchronisation has been completed, the IMED report said.

With the power evacuation line completed, the power plant has a target to start producing electricity in December.

The Tk 18,034 crore Single Line Dual Gauge Railway Track from Dohazari to Cox’s Bazar saw 87 percent physical progress and 44 percent financial progress. The railway is likely to be opened in September.

However, a project official said the cost is likely to be slashed by $400 million as it is yet to be decided whether one of the components — a 28-km railway from Ramu to Gundam near Myanmar — would be constructed.

The total cost for the eight projects is Tk 308,676 crore, 67 percent of which has been spent as of July, according to the report.

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