Russia and Bangladesh have signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the field of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. Meanwhile, Russia plans to cooperate with Namibia in uranium mining and processing.Foreign Minister Dipu Moni lead the event.
The agreement was signed in Moscow by Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Russian state nuclear company Rosatom, and Yafesh Osman, Bangladesh??s minister of state for science, information and communication technologies. The agreement is valid for five years, but includes the option of renewing it every subsequent five years.
The agreement provides a legal framework for cooperation between the two countries in the field of nuclear energy. It covers a wide range of possible areas for cooperation, including site selection, design, construction and operation of nuclear power and research reactors, desalination plants and particle accelerators. It also covers cooperation in the exploration and development of uranium and thorium deposits, the supply of nuclear fuel for power and research reactors, radioactive waste management, regulation, ensuring nuclear and radiation safety and security, and the physical protection of nuclear and radioactive materials. Notably, it includes the ??export of Russian-origin used nuclear fuel,?? implying the possible return to Russia for long-term management and permanent disposal.
In addition, the agreement also stipulates that Russia will assist Bangladesh in creating a national nuclear regulatory body, as well as training and educating specialists in Russia in the field of nuclear physics, nuclear energy and related applied research. Specific areas for cooperation include basic and applied research in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, in particular, in neutron physics, thermo hydraulics, the handling of nuclear fuel, measurement and control systems and automation, as well as the production and use of radioisotopes in industry, medicine and agriculture.
The agreement follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding in May 2009 between the two countries on cooperation in nuclear energy. To implement the agreement, Russia and Bangladesh plan to establish a joint coordinating committee.
On signing the agreement, Osman said that the ??historic character?? of the accord will allow Bangladesh to resolve its energy crisis.
Russia, China and South Korea have earlier offered financial and technical help to establish nuclear power in Bangladesh, and in March 2009 Russia made a formal proposal to build a nuclear power plant in the country. In April 2009, the government approved the Russian proposal to build a 1000 MWe nuclear plant at Rooppur for about $2 billion, with the hope of having it operating in 2014.
The foreign minister, Dipu Moni, also on a visit to Moscow, witnessed the signing of the agreement which, officials here said would kick off a detailed discussion on Russian assistance for Bangladesh??s proposed Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.
Atomic energy commission officials earlier said Bangladesh expected to produce at least 2,000 megawatt electricity by 2020 from two units of the country??s maiden nuclear power triggered plant in Pabna.
The perspective planning for power sector which envisaged 10 per cent of the total power generation to come from nuclear energy by that time.
??The framework agreement will lay the basis for detailed discussions leading to the signing of the final nuclear deal?? on Russian assistance for the installation of the Rooppur Power Plant by 2017, a science and ICT ministry spokesman told BSS.
The foreign office statement said Dhaka-Moscow cooperation under the agreement would include ??design, construction and operation of nuclear power and research reactors; nuclear fuel supply, taking back the spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste management; personnel training and capacity building for operation and maintenance of the plants; research, education and training of personnel in the Russian Federation in the field of the use of nuclear energy; development of innovative reactor technologies; and exploration and mining of uranium and thorium deposits??.
??As per the agreement, the parties shall assure the transfer of materials, technologies, equipment and services for implementation of joint programs in the field of the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,?? it agreement read.
The framework deal also suggested the two countries establish a Joint Coordination Committee to control the implementation of this agreement while both the countries agreed that the signing of the ??Agreement?? would be followed by the subsequent ??inter-governmental agreements?? on technical and financial aspects.
According to the statement after signing the deal the Rosatom chief expressed his full support and commitment for Bangladesh??s endeavour to explore nuclear power saying a high-level Russian delegation would soon visit Bangladesh to take forward next steps in implementing the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant Project.
It said both the foreign minister and the state minister for science & ICT said the incumbent government of the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, was determined to build nuclear power plants to meet growing electricity demands as well as to materialising the vision 2021 of transforming Bangladesh into a digital country.
Rosatom??s deputy director general Nikolay Spasskiy appreciated that Bangladesh had good number of scientific and technical personnel and socio-economic condition of Bangladesh was suitable to go for Nuclear Power Plant Project.
Science and ICT secretary M Abdur Rob Howlader, Rooppur Nuclear Plant Project director Mohammad Shawkat Akbar, Bangladesh envoy to Russia SM Saiful Haque and senior officials of the foreign and ministries were present during the signing of the agreement.
The officials familiar with the development earlier said Sheikh Hasina was expected to visit Moscow in September this year after accomplishment of preparatory work on signing the final nuclear power cooperation treaty with Russia in line with the framework agreement.
Dhaka and Moscow in May last year signed a memorandum of understanding for installing the first-ever nuclear power plant with Russian assistance.
International Atomic Energy Association allowed Bangladesh to install nuclear power plants in 2007 along with seven other developing nations while Russia, France, South Korea, China and Pakistan expressed their interest to offer their assistance for developing the infrastructure.
Officials said the planned nuclear project was expected to cost $1.5 billion with major part of the cost to be provided through domestic funds and the rest of the amount to come from the builder or international donors as soft loan.
??We decided to engage the builder of the project on bilateral state to state basis instead of going for time consuming international bidding process,?? a senior science and ICT ministry official said.
He added that compared to other countries the cost of construction of the plant would be lower in Bangladesh because of the cheaper labour force and availability of infrastructure materials at a lower cost.
An official at the ministry said Bangladesh preferred Russian technologies as the Russian authorities offered competitive prices for the installation of nuclear plants while Moscow was interested to provide soft loan alongside the technology in installing the plant.
Russian embassy officials in Dhaka earlier said Moscow so far supplied as many as 65 plants to different countries including Iran, India, China, Ukraine, Hungary and Slovakia.
Bangladesh has long been suffering from severe power outages due to demands imposed by its fast-growing economy at around six per cent a year since 2004 while the International Monetary Fund last month said the country??s economic growth would slide to five per cent a year ? the worst performance in eight years, largely due to the worsening energy crisis.
The government recently formulated a vision plan as part of its desperate efforts to augment electricity amid growing demands while the poor power supply is estimated to cost around two per cent of GDP growth each year, according a study of the World Bank.
Only around 40 per cent of Bangladeshis currently have access to electricity while the country now witnesses a deficit of 1,000 to 1,500MW power with 41 public and private sector plants with de-rated capacity of 5,198 MW.
But dwindling reserves in existing gas fields, the main source for the country??s power generation, and expensive petroleum for electricity production prompted the experts and policymakers to explore solar and other renewable energy sources as the situation is also backed by a global campaign for clean energy.