Despite the covid-19 pandemic, the construction work of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant is in full swing with over 18,000 people working relentlessly to complete the project work as per the schedule.
In an interview with the Daily Sun, Director of the Russian Atomstroyexport (ASE) in Bangladesh IA Tupilov has shared different insights about mega project.
The construction of the Rooppur NPP has entered its most active phase. General construction work is in full swing and is on track. Unfortunately, a small glitch occurred in April-June due to the pandemic. But starting in July, the pace of work began to grow steadily. We are starting to increase the number of personnel. While the average total number of people employed at the construction site in the past years was 12,000 people, today it has already exceeded 18,000 people. We plan to continue to increase the number of personnel and go to work in accordance with the schedule.
What the Covid-19 pandemic meant for the project? What adjustments you had to make things work?
The main problem was that the number of personnel decreased, and, accordingly, the volume of work performed decreased in a certain period of time. But we quickly introduced the necessary quarantine measures, established testing, and monitoring the situation. And today the situation with Covid-19 at the construction site is under full control and practically does not affect the implementation of work. We have no other choice: we have to live and work in such conditions.
What are some of the key issues and achievements during the construction of the nuclear plant?
I cannot say that we have any serious problems. There are none. All problems are solved in the normal course of operations. Well, the key tasks that have been set for us this year have already been completed or are being fulfilled. Quite recently, one key task of this year has been successfully completed - concreting of the reactor shaft to the bottom of the ceiling at an elevation of +26.300 meters at the first power unit. At the beginning of next year, the overlap is to be performed at this level and, thus, the work area for the installation of heavy equipment, including the installation of the reactor vessel, will be prepared. At the second power unit, we proceeded ahead of schedule with the installation of the third tier of the inner containment to the elevation of +20.500 meters. It is planned to concrete the third tier of the inner containment by the end of the year.
We have important events almost every day. As you probably already know, heavy equipment began to arrive at the station. Recently, the reactor vessel of the first power unit and a steam generator arrived at the construction site of the nuclear power plant. Three more steam generators are on the way. Installation of dry shielding and concreting of the reactor shaft of the first power unit became an important stage of work. And, of course, the installation of the reactor vessel will be a landmark moment. It is important to note that all key events are and will continue to occur in accordance with the station construction schedule.
The construction of the Rooppur NPP is under close scrutiny not only by the management of the State Corporation Rosatom, but also by the leadership of Russia, which considers this project extremely important.
What is the most difficult thing in the construction of the Rooppur NPP?
The Rooppur NPP project is the largest infrastructure project in Bangladesh. It involves many public and private organizations, subcontracting companies, tens of thousands of people. Therefore, the most difficult thing is the need to link all processes related to the construction of a nuclear power plant together and maintain a rhythmic schedule in accordance with contractual obligations. It is this, and not any specific construction tasks, that presents the greatest challenge.
Are you satisfied with the way the Bangladeshi side is fulfilling its obligations in the framework of the NPP construction?
Yes, satisfied. Though, there is a little lag in the provision of housing for the Russian project employees, in the creation of household infrastructure. But, overall, the Bangladeshi side is doing a good job and solves its tasks and provides us with everything we need in accordance with the contract.
How do you rate the performance of the Bangladeshi personnel, including the engineering staff and workers? Is there any professional training for them?
There are many Bangladeshi specialists at the NPP construction site who perform very important work. It is difficult to overestimate the contribution of Bangladeshi specialists to the construction of the Rooppur nuclear power plant. Among them are engineers, land surveyors, workers. The figures speak for themselves: if the number of Russian specialists is about 2.5 thousand people, the number of workers from Bangladesh is 16 thousand. That is, more than 80 per cent of the personnel at the construction site today are citizens of Bangladesh. We are also active in the field of vocational training. We have a special personnel training department. Every month, it graduates about 60-100 specialists of various working professions, including welders, reinforcement workers, concrete workers. I would like to point out that Bangladeshis are easy to train. They want to learn and strive to do a good job. This is important for them, also because in the system of remuneration adopted at the Rooppur NPP project, the level of a worker's qualifications is directly and very seriously related to the size of his salary.
How do you assess the attitude of the local population towards the construction of the nuclear power plant and the Russian personnel?
The population treats Russian specialists quite well. And not least because so many locals work on the project. We provided jobs for many local residents, and local businesses also received additional income opportunities.