President supports Russia’s ‘unsolicited’ 100Mw nuclear power plantView(s):
By Senuka Jayakody
President Ranil Wickremesinghe has given advice to collaborate with India to set up a nuclear power plant in Sri Lanka following an “unsolicited” proposal from Russia.
The Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Board, chairman Prof. S. R. D. Rosa, told the Sunday Times Russia had presented a proposal to the previous Government.
The proposal is from Russia’s state-owned ROSATOM. It has submitted a detailed and integrated proposal, unlike the Chinese delegates who had only met with the board.
Last year, several experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency had visited Sri Lanka and the board had submitted a working paper which it had approved, and then determined Sri Lanka as an “embarking country”.
In accordance with procedure, it was required for Sri Lanka to become a party to the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage and Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, which was approved by the Cabinet this week.
The board is developing an intergovernmental agreement, which if Cabinet approval is given, would be signed by the ROSATOM director and the president of Sri Lanka.
Prof. Rosa said Sri Lanka had “to get out of coal by 2030 or 2040”.
“Solar and wind are good but they are intermittent, unstable and seasonal power sources,’’ he said, adding that power based entirely on solar power is impractical.
Russia is supporting the nuclear power systems in India, including the nuclear power reactor of Kudankulam and the development of nuclear energy in Bangladesh, where India is also collaborating.
The reactor is expected to be a SMR (small medium reactor) which produces around 100 Megawatts. It is believed to be “inherently safe” and with “minimal in risk”.
Even though the cost is high, the runnings costs are lower, he said. Refuelling has to be done only once in two or three years.
He also expects lower prices for electricity.
“We have observed the electricity bills in India and they charge only Rs. 26 per unit,’’ Prof. Rosa said.
The location has not been decided, but Prof. Rosa expects the plant to be located offshore in a rural area. An offshore barge-based nuclear reactor would take only two and half years to be built, while a plant on land will take five years, he said.
Russia has agreed to take back the nuclear waste, which is the reason for considering the Russian proposal.
In Bangladesh’s agreement with Russia, the raw material is being provided by Russia. The payment period is 15 years.
Prof. Rosa said previous governments were hesitant fearing protests, but President Ranil Wickremasinghe has “a vision” to introduce nuclear energy.
Prof. Rosa assured that safety measures are already in place and that sensors have been placed in areas such as Mannar and Jaffna to detect a leak in the Indian nuclear power plant. “If something does happen to our nuclear reactor, we would get to know of it and take the necessary precautions.’’
Dr. Chandana Jayalath, a senior lecturer of the department of physics of the faculty of science at the University of Peradeniya favours nuclear power. “We need a low cost energy source and it is good for the environment due to zero emissions.’’
But, he has concerns about safety and security.
Dr. Jayalath however, supported the procedure adopted by Bangladesh under which the funding country will supply the nuclear fuel and also handle the nuclear waste.
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