THE government’s increased effort to meet the energy demand of the country while laudable raises some serious concerns. When globally the move is to divest from nuclear and coal based power generation, the government has decided to install a second nuclear power plant. The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, as reported in New Age on Monday, has begun a feasibility study of the second nuclear power plant at Gangamati in Patuakhali. In 2014, the prime minister had given a directive to install another nuclear plant in the country. The feasibility study and selection of site is considered crucial for this project as site preparation, public acceptance and safety of the installation depends on this process. What is worrying in this regard is that the government has stubbornly decided to continue with its nuclear power generation projects amid widespread national and international criticism.
Bangladesh is moving forward with a second project without resolving the public anxiety and unease over the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Pabna. A more than $12 billion project is now being implemented with the assistance of Russian State Energy Corporation — Rosatom. The Russian corporation in question does not have a credible track record in implementing such projects. There are allegations that they have used substandard equipment, ignored local public concerns when installing the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in India. The allegations ring true for Bangladesh as well. According to International Atomic Energy Agency, people living in precautionary action zone, urgent protective action planning zone needs to be properly informed about the nuclear disaster and must be prepared to evacuate immediately in moments of crisis. The people of Ishwardi are all living within the 30km area of the Rooppur nuclear power reactor and their social economic condition is such that they may not be able to evacuate as promptly as expected. There are other similar nuclear safety issues that the government should have concretely resolved before entering into the implementation process. Besides, the government is implementing the project without fanialising the nuclear safety deal with Russia. According to New Age report on Sunday, Bangladesh is reviewing the draft of safety deal with India and Russia and likely to seek clarity on certain aspects of nuclear safety. The nuclear safety deal came so late in the day of the construction of Roopur plant proves that the government is unprepared to undertake any such project.
Considering the grave environmental and human cost of nuclear plants, many countries including China and Germany have reviewed its energy policy and decided to invest more on renewable energy infrastructure. Besides, studies conducted by the government itself revealed potential for renewable energy in Bangladesh. In a recent assessment of wind energy potential done for the power division suggested that 5,000MW wind power is easily possible in Bangladesh. Therefore, the government must revisit its power sector master plan before moving ahead with its second nuclear power plant and explore the possibility of renewable energy for a more environmentally sustainable energy policy.
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