Bangladesh’s first nuclear power plant to start generating power next year, but tariff still unknown

227

Though the 1200 MW first unit of the country’s first-ever nuclear power plant at Rooppur is expected to start production from next year, the Power Division and  the BPDB are still in dark about the possible tariff of the electricity of the plant.

According to sources at the Power Division, the officials of Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDP) sat in a number of meetings with the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) to discuss a possible power tariff of the plant, but they failed to get a clear picture in this regard.

The BAEC has been implementing the 2400 MW RNPP project and the BPDB will purchase electricity from the Russian-aided plant under a long term agreement.

Referring to the remarks of some officials of the BPDB who are dealing with the BAEC, a Power Division official said that RNPP officials are found to be very reluctant on sharing the data of their power plant.

“It’s really tough to calculate the tariff of electricity of a power plant if the accurate data on the costs are not known”, he said adding the BAEC officials are not willing to share the necessary data and cost of the plant. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.

“The BPDB officials requested the BAEC to share some data on their cost with proper documents, specially the foreign loan, interest, repayment schedule, fuel supply cost, fixed cost and operating cost and establishment cost of the RNPP”, said the official preferring anonymity as “the issue is very sensitive”.

“But so far those data are not made available by the BAEC officials to the BPDB”, he added.

Power Cell Director General Mohammad Hossain, however, said both the BPDB and the BAEC are in continuous discussion to settle the tariff issue.

He said the first unit of the RNPP is expected to come into operation from the last quarter of 2024.

“So, still there is enough time to settle the tariff issue and we’re hopeful of reaching a conclusion before that time”, he told UNB.

A top official of the BPDB, however, said that they have made a primary calculation on the basis of the data derived from the discussions with BAEC and reports in the newspaper and the tariff of per unit electricity of the RNPP will be not less than Tk10.

From the very beginning, confusion reigns over its eventual levelised tariff, or the possible generation cost of each unit of electricity, said the official.

Levelized Tariff is a means to recover the entire cost of a project during the project’s lifecycle.

At the initial stage of the RNPP project, its officials had said the tariff would be around $0.04, or 4 cents, per kilowatt hour – about Tk 3.50 when the US dollar rate was below Tk 80. Russian experts in their papers sent to the RNPP officials mentioned an even lower tariff, about $.0319 or 3.2 cents.

Project director of RNPP and managing director of newly formed Nuclear Power Company of Bangladesh Limited (NPCBL) Dr. Mohammad Shawkat Akbar speaking to UNB earlier had also given an idea the tariff will be within $0.04.

He said RNPP’s calculation was based on 50 years of stable fuel price, 50 years’ operational tenure and the capital investment cost. The main factor which keeps the tariff low was the low discount rate of the project. He also said calculation of plant factor at 93 percent has been another reason for the lower tariff.

But local power tariff experts differ with this calculation, and said the tariff will be much higher than this estimation.

According to some local experts’ calculation the power tariff of the RNPP project will cross $0.08 -0.10 (8-10 US Cents).

One of the country’s eminent power tariff experts, Mizanur Rahman, former Member of Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC), said the electricity tariff from the nuclear power project will be more than over $0.085 (8.5 Cents).

Mizan, also former chief engineer of BPDB, believes the tariff will be just more than double of the RNPP’s calculation.

Referring to his own calculation on the basis of total cost of project at $13.2 billion ($12.65 construction cost and 500 million feasibility study cost) plus 50 years operation with 50 years’ fuel price and the cost of decommissioning and spent fuel repatriation, he said the tariff will be about $0.085, or between Tk 9-10 per unit if the US dollar rate is calculated at Tk 109.

“But if the dollar rate increases further, tariff will be over Tk 10 per unit”, he said adding, during the loan repayment period, the power production cost will be US12-13 Cents and then it will come down to 5-6 Cents.

He said repatriation of spent nuclear fuel – as the ones at Rooppur – will be back to the Russian Federation till Bangladesh gains some expertise in dealing with nuclear waste and the decommissioning of nuclear power is a very costly process.

Science and Technology Minister Architect Yeafesh Osman declined to comment on the electricity tariff issue.  “It will be unwise to say about tariffs on a roughly basis”, he told UNB.

While calculating the tariff, BPDB officials said Bangladesh will start the repayment of the loan from March 2027 and complete the repayment in next 20 years by paying $1.360 billion per annum through 40 installments.

“On average, about 680 million will be paid including principal and interest”, he added.

The government conceived the idea of setting up the RNPP project in 2009 and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Russian Federation on May 13 in 2009 on the ‘Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy’.

On January 15, 2013, an agreement regarding State Export Credit of US$ 500 million was signed for carrying out preparatory phase construction works of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.

The government signed a US$12.65 billion general contract (GC) in 2015 with the Russian Federation for building the 2,400 MW nuclear power plant at Rooppur. Each unit will generate 1200 MW of power.

Bangladesh signed a credit agreement with Russia to obtain $11.385 billion Russian credit for RNPP in July 2016. The credit will cover 90 percent of the project cost.

The Ministry of Science and Technology recently said that the first unit of the plant may come into operation in July 2024 and the second unit in July 2025.