Search

 

Cablegate: Bangladesh Interest in Civil Nuclear Energy: Is It

VZCZCXRO8282
PP RUEHAST RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHLH RUEHNEH RUEHPW
DE RUEHKA #0001/01 0010139
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 010139Z JAN 09
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8043
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAKA 000001

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR T: MARC HUMPHREY; ENERGY FOR NNSA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ENRG TRGY BEXP BTIO BG
SUBJECT: BANGLADESH INTEREST IN CIVIL NUCLEAR ENERGY: IS IT
READY?

REF: A. STATE 127423
B. DHAKA 906

DHAKA 00000001 001.2 OF 002


Summary
-------

1. Bangladesh has long expressed an interest in developing a
civil nuclear energy program to address its power generation
needs. This interest has increased in recent years as the
country's steady industrialization has put further strains on
its limited energy resources. The Government of Bangladesh
(GOB) has taken initial steps to prepare for a civil nuclear
energy industry and is eager to cooperate with USG efforts to
mitigate risks. Serious doubts remain however, about
Bangladesh's ability to ensure the safety and security of
nuclear facilities, and about the economic justification of a
very poor country sinking huge amounts of money into nuclear
energy, rather than developing its extensive coal and gas
reserves.

Overview of Civil Nuclear Energy
--------------------------------

2. In response to action request (reftel A) Econoff recently
visited the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) to
discuss the future of a civil nuclear energy program in
Bangladesh.

3. Bangladesh's interest in nuclear energy pre-dates its
independence from Pakistan. In the 1960's the government of
Pakistan identified a site at Rooppur, near the Padma River,
for the development of a nuclear power plant. Political
instability leading to the independence of Bangladesh in 1971
halted those plans, and the authorities chose to build the
plant in West Pakistan instead, near Karachi. The newly
independent GOB continued to reserve the Rooppur site for a
future nuclear power plant, and conducted several feasibility
studies, most recently in 1987. In 2007 the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) gave its approval to Bangladesh
for the development of nuclear power. Based on a timeline
set according to IAEA guidelines, BAEC estimated a nuclear
plant could be operational by the early 2020's.

The Energy Alternatives
-----------------------

4. The GOB's desire to develop nuclear energy is largely
driven by increasing shortages of electricity, which has
become ever more critical with the country's growing
industrialization and agricultural production. Bangladesh's
steady economic growth of 6 percent per year will likely hit
a plateau soon if power generation shortages are not
addressed. Currently, 85-90% of Bangladesh's electricity is
generated by natural gas, with most of the remainder
generated by coal. Bangladesh has significant hydrocarbon
resources, both on land and offshore, but various setbacks
have prevented the country from exploiting them fully.
Corrupt practices under previous governments and indecision
by the caretaker government have prevented any new
exploration for natural gas, while operating wells start to
deplete. (Note: the GOB opened bids earlier this year for
offshore gas exploration, but has not yet signed contracts.
End Note). Coal production has been seriously hampered by
opposition to open-pit mining and the lack of a coal policy.

The Institutional Framework
---------------------------

5. BAEC is currently the only authority in Bangladesh
concerned with nuclear energy, but BAEC anticipates the
development of a National Nuclear Power Authority to operate
nuclear power facilities. Bangladesh is not yet party to the
Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, but
BAEC reported its participation was "under process".
Bangladesh has signed a number of other IAEA multilateral
agreements including the Convention on Early Notification of
a Nuclear Accident (1988), the Convention on Nuclear Safety
(1996) and the Convention on the Physical Protection of
Nuclear Material (2005).

Potential Partners
------------------

6. Commercial tenders for nuclear energy generation are some
time off, but Bangladesh has approached Russia, Japan, South
Korea and China about providing assistance. When the Chief
Adviser (equivalent to Prime Minister) visited China in
September 2008 media reports indicated China "responded

DHAKA 00000001 002.2 OF 002


positively" to Bangladesh's request, (although the Chinese
Embassy here believes no progress on this request is
imminent). The response from other countries has been
lukewarm.

Challenges
----------

7. BAEC cited the lack of trained human resources as a major
future challenge, both in the operation and regulation of
nuclear facilities. Bangladesh's highly-respected but small
cohort of engineering professionals will not likely be large
enough to support a nuclear industry without substantial
foreign expertise. Other challenges may include security
concerns, disposal of nuclear waste and public opposition to
nuclear power projects.

8. Serious concerns about the safety of nuclear facilities
in Bangladesh remain. For years a radiological source at an
abandoned site in Chittagong was not properly safeguarded
(reftel B). Although BAEC, with assistance from the U.S.
Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security
Administration, is now taking steps to secure and remove the
source, the slow response raises questions about the security
of larger and more hazardous facilities in the future.

Comment
-------

9. Bangladesh sits on enormous coal reserves of the highest
quality. Similarly, a rigorous program of gas exploration
would likely lend to a large increase in Bangladesh's already
sizeable proven reserves. In that context, the idea that a
dirt-poor country like Bangladesh would spend huge amounts of
money developing a nuclear power industry would appear to
make little sense.
MORIARTY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO: