By Stanley Carvalho
ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Construction work on Bangladesh's first nuclear power reactor will start next month with Russian collaboration and completion slated for 2024, the country's minister for science & technology said on Wednesday.
Bangladesh has been planning to build nuclear plants since the 1960s but a lack of support and other factors have delayed the much-needed project in a country known for frequent power cuts.
Two nuclear reactors, each with 1,100 megawatts of capacity are being built by Russia's Rosatom, which is also funding 90 percent of the costs, Yeafesh Osman told Reuters on the sidelines of a nuclear conference in Abu Dhabi.
He declined to disclose the cost of the project. But a Russian source told Reuters the estimated cost of the two reactors is around $12.5 billion.
"All the auxiliary structures are completed and first concrete pouring will be next month. We have suffered enough by delays, we need nuclear power as part of our energy mix," he said, adding it will reduce CO2 emissions greatly and help secure much-needed electricity.
The two VVER-1200 pressurized water reactors will be operational in 2024 and 2025 respectively, he said. The reactors will be at Rooppur, 200 km north-west of the capital Dhaka.
Rosatom will build and maintain the plants, supply fuel as also provide training for staff, he said.
Russia has already built two VVER reactors in neighboring India, at Kudankulam and is planning to build two more.
Nuclear power will contribute about 10 percent of the country's energy mix when both reactors are ready. Currently, Bangladesh relies on hydro, coal and expensive gas to meet the country's surging power needs.
Bangladesh has plans to continue with its nuclear power program by building two more reactors in the short-term, Osman said, without giving details.
The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited the site and has given the thumbs-up for the project, he added.
(Reporting by Stanley Carvalho, editing by David Evans)