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Let’s be clear about nuclear

  • Published at 10:47 am December 1st, 2017
Let’s be clear about nuclear
Proper disposal of nuclear waste is a critical matter, related to the protection of our people -- since we will have a new Russian nuclear power plant soon to be operating in Bangladesh. In this regard, our government’s decision to opt for nuclear power is very unwise. The possibility of getting cancer from nuclear plant waste and used electrode disposal is going to have a very expensive medical cost. Quite frankly, the decision taken by our government to set up this potentially dangerous and very risky 2,400MW nuclear power plant from Russia at the staggering cost of $11.385 billion -- which may go up higher -- may not have been the wisest. When the taka devalues in comparison to US/Russian currency, it is bound to go up day by day. It is not clear if the aforementioned cost also includes the cost of sending our nuclear waste, including used electrodes, to Russia for disposal. This will be both a dangerous and costly business -- including extensive training of our personnel as well as the cost of having Russian personnel operating this plant for a few years. Furthermore, one wonders how much more MW capacity of conventionally safe and radiation-free thermal power plants we could have had for this amount of money; and for how long will nuclear waste and used electrodes be sent overseas for disposal? If it is for the life of the plant, the cost will be astronomical. Feedback from our power plant procurement personnel (the government) on this very important and critical matter would be most welcome. Importantly, the costs involved in shipping and safe dumping of nuclear waste as well as the regular disposal cost and the cost of all the used electrodes of the nuclear power plant that needs to be changed regularly, should be made public. This should be made public to all Bangladeshis, as it is their money that will be spent.
Considering the overall high interest rate being charged by the Russians, what will be the additional cost in foreign exchange for the disposal of nuclear waste?
Naturally, the contract time-frame for the disposal of nuclear waste and electrodes should extend throughout the life of the plant. Or will it be for a limited period? And if so, we will be compelled to go to the Russians for the disposal of the dangerous nuclear waste and spent electrodes again and again -- which can be a serious health hazard. Most likely, the cost of the nuclear plant’s waste disposal will get higher and higher from one term to another -- as long as the nuclear power plant is kept running, which could be for a period of around 20 to 25 years, at the least. And all this has to be paid in foreign exchange, if the plant is kept running. The huge amount of foreign currency will essentially be public money. What then will be the unit cost of power to be produced from this plant (based on a five year period)? This should be publicly reported, and not kept a secret, under any circumstance. Considering the overall high interest rate being charged by the Russians, what will be the additional cost in foreign exchange for the disposal of nuclear waste and spent electrode, including the cost of transporting it all to Russia? What will be the overall and final cost of power generation per KWh from this plant? Surely, it will be far, far higher than any conventional thermal power plant, where the capital cost is much lower, and loans have much cheaper rates from international sources -- and the plants are normally operated by local personnel. It could even be fatal to our power sector. For which, in all respects, the top level of our government is responsible for the installation of the most expensive and most dangerous power plant -- which is likely to lead to fatal radiation sickness in our country. Many years ago, I visited an operational and absolutely safe U-238 fuelled nuclear power plant in the US. U238 fuelled power plants are totally radiation-free. It seems that we are headed for a projected disaster, despite the fact that we could have gone for the safe U238-fuelled nuclear power plant from China, Europe, or even the US. SA Mansoor has spent decades in the power plant industry, owning power plants both public and private.