The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission has begun a feasibility study on the second nuclear power plant at Gangamati in Patuakhali after dropping four proposed sites close to the Sunderbans.
Officials told New Age that picturesque Gangamati, close to Kuakata beach, was taken for the feasibility study dropping four sites adjacent to the periphery of the world’s largest mangrove forest to avert criticism as protests continued in home and abroad against the construction of coal-fired power plant at Rampal.
They said that Gangamati was prioritised over three other primarily selected sites – Mazher Char in Barguna, Boyar Char in Noakhali and Muhurir Char in Feni – following the government’s plan to develop Patuakhali as a modern coastal belt by establishing a deep sea port and a naval base there.
Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission chairman Mahbubul Hoq said that the feasibility study was being conducted to select the site for the second nuclear power plant as per a directive given by prime minister Sheikh Hasina in 2014.
The country’s first nuclear power plant is being constructed at Rooppur in Pabna with more than $12 billion financial and technical assistance from Russia. The first reactor of the Rooppur nuclear power plant is expected to be commissioned in 2023 and the second one 2014.
Nearly 1,750 cubic metre of water would be fetched everyday from the nearby Padma River to cool the reactors of the Rooppur nuclear power station.
The commission chairman said that Gangamati was getting priority because of its location and other features like availability of water.
He, however, said that they would also scrutinise other sites like Mazher Char, Boyar Char and Muhurir Char before finally selecting the site by 2019 with the approval of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority.
The commission has invited Japan Atomic Energy Agency to explore the possibility of building the proposed nuclear power plant with the capacity of 2,000MW in the southern region.
China’s Dongfang Electric Corporation has expressed interest in building the second power plant, said commission officials.
The National committee to protect oil, gas, mineral resources, power and ports member secretary Anu Muhammad blamed the government for providing money making opportunities to vested local and foreign interests in the name of nuclear power project.
He alleged that these vested interests trapped the government to buy costly power plants and other technologies having no other buyers.
Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority officials said that they were not aware of the feasibility study of site selection for the second nuclear power plant officially.
Its chairman Naiyyum Choudhury, however, said that he knew that feasibility study for site election was on prioritising Gangmati.
He said that function of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority would start only after the selection of the site.
He noted that the selection of a site suitable for a nuclear installation was crucial considering site preparation costs, public acceptance and safety of the installation over its operating lifetime.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, faulty decisions made at the site selection might require re-evaluation of and upgrades to the installation during operation may consequently be necessary, possibly necessitating extended shutdown periods and causing considerable costs.
Among the primary works, site survey stage, site selection stage and site characterisation stage are very important, said the International Atomic Energy Agency.
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