General Studies Paper 3

Context: Bangladesh and Russia have agreed to use Chinese yuan to settle payment for the construction of Rooppur nuclear plant as the payment via Russian ruble was not feasible at present.

Overview of the Project

  • Bangladesh is constructing the first of two nuclear power plants in collaboration with Russia’s state-owned atomic company Rosatom.
  • Once completed, the two reactors at the Rooppur site, which is approximately 160 kilometres north-west of Dhaka, will generate 2400 megawatts of round-the-clock clean electricity.
  • The project is a part of an ambitious initiative to transform the developing country into a developed economy by 2041.
  • As the electricity demand is rising by about 7%annually, Bangladesh is looking to expand as well as diversify and decarbonize its electricity sector through the addition of nuclear power and renewables. Currently, natural gas provides nearly 80% of the country’s electricity.

Involvement of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

  • Bangladesh is among 28 countries that are considering, planning or starting the introduction of nuclear power. The IAEA assists countries interested in developing peaceful applications of nuclear energy, including nuclear power.
  • The IAEA’s milestones approach provides step-by-step guidance on the infrastructure for a new nuclear power programme.

India’s Role

  • India has a nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia and Bangladesh. The Rooppur project is the first initiative under an Indo-Russian deal to undertake atomic energy projects in third countries.
  • Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) is the commanding authority from the Indian side to assist in the construction, installation and also work in capacity building, as well as provide support to Russia which will take the lead in designing, manufacturing and supply of equipment and construction of the facility.
  • This will also be the first time Indian companies will be able to participate in a nuclear power project abroad. India is not a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)and hence cannot participate directly in construction of atomic power reactors.

Significance for India

  • While India has been steadily undertaking strategic agreements with major powers like the US, Russia and Japan, this agreement marks the first project that India is undertaking on foreign soil, signifying India’s deeper involvement in the global civil nuclear sector. 
  • It has also given a huge boost to the country’s ‘Make in India’ initiative by proposing the production of some nuclear equipment for the plant in domestic shores.
  • This agreement is also important in the context of India’s‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, making its role in South Asia noteworthy. It is a major step in achieving the objectives of non-reciprocity towards India’s smaller neighbours in South Asia as highlighted in the Gujral doctrine, furthering India’s status as a responsible nuclear power.
  • It will also help India in realising other strategic objectives,including for instance, a free-transit agreement with Bangladesh which will reduce its dependence on the Siliguri Corridor and contribute towards the development of the northeastern region.
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