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Road to Rooppur nuclear power plant megaproject

Mohammad Hamidul Haque, Guest Writer  | banglanews24.com
Update: 2021-05-15 16:07:36
Road to Rooppur nuclear power plant megaproject [photo collected]

Behind any successful project, there are courageous skilled people who can create it. That is why human resource development is an essential element in implementing the Rooppur nuclear power plant (RNPP) under construction in the Pabna District. The RNPP is the largest infrastructure project in Bangladesh’s history. Since the start of the main construction phase in 2017, it has helped to create thousands of jobs for many public and private organizations. This scale of manpower is necessary, because NPP is a vast and technically complex power generation facility that requires well-coordinated labors, employees, different professions and specialties. 

Russia has been at the forefront of helping Bangladesh in building its community of nuclear energy professionals. Bangladeshi students and academicians have been offered scholarships for study and training on nuclear energy and related technology in Russia since 2014. Many of these specialists can receive their degree in Russian top nuclear university – National Research Nuclear University - Moscow Engineering and Physics Institute (MEPhI), which can be compared to the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). MEPhI has more than 75 years' expertise in nuclear engineering and is the key partner of Rosatom in educating young high-qualified nuclear specialists. In total, it hosts more than 1 500 international students from 79 countries today. Students specialized in NPP receive training in NPPs operations, they have regular workshops on full-scale simulators, and at real NPPs, and so they will be fully prepared to work at the NPP. The University of Dhaka and the Military Institute of Science and Technology have also organized college education programs in nuclear power. 

Currently, more than fifty Bangladeshi students are studying nuclear power technology at MEPhI and about fifty have been graduated from the university. I was among the first people who was chosen to study at MEPhI on such a scholarship. I got a distinction with an average grade 4.75 out of 5. The program is rigorous and challenging but it helped if you completed assignments on time and kept focused. As a bonus, the teachers and staff were always ready to help. 

The candidates, interested in pursuing education at MEPhI, should start with a visit to the Russian Center for Science and Culture in Dhaka because it handles the enrollment process. Candidates applying for the Bachelor or Specialist course scholarship must get a minimum first class in SSC and HSC or equivalent examination. A Master's course needs to have first class in SSC, HSC, and Honors or equivalent examination. Then, based on maximum GPA and CGPA, the students who have passed the written and oral tests are initially taken. The Russian embassy in Dhaka makes the final decision on the candidates. The nature of this process may vary from time to time.

The academic year begins in early September according to tradition and custom. Scholarship students who will study in Russian medium programs must first complete a one-year preparatory course in the Russian language. It is taught together with physics, mathematics, chemistry, and other subjects. As soon as the preparatory course is completed, the students start learning the main course taught in Russian. Scholarships include tuition fees and free preparatory courses of the Russian language. The students have to bear the cost of living, health insurance, and other expenses. The cost of living is comparatively much lower. The monthly living cost amounts to the equivalent of eight to ten thousand Bangladeshi taka. The university provides accommodation is in a well-developed and secure building at a nominal price. 

In addition to my studies, I had a unique opportunity to work at RNPP as part of the Rosatom Student Construction Brigade in 2019. Student Construction Brigade is a fantastic organization that has united more than 10,000 students on large-scale construction projects over 12 years of its existence. Those who become part of it work in the summer at various nuclear sites in Russia and outside of Russia to gain practical knowledge. My main responsibility was to maintain a safety culture via controlling, surveying, and auditing documentation for the leading construction company, Atomstroyexport. This experience helped me to gain an inside understanding of corporate culture, develop leadership qualities and network. 

Since then, I have completed my studies and now work at JSC Rosenergoatom, one of the companies of Rosatom in Bangladesh. Nowadays, the total number of people employed at the construction site exceeds 18,000 . Bangladeshi specialists' contribution to the construction is enormous; more than 80% of the staff at the construction site today are local. They too have an opportunity to upgrade their skills at the special training department set up by Atomstroyexport in Bangladesh. Every month, it trains about 60-100 workers of different professions, including welders, rebar workers, and concrete workers. Those who passed this training have better skills and higher salaries.

Once the Rooppur NPP is completed, it will require highly-skilled professionals with vast experience working at nuclear facilities. Management level-positions will require a higher technical background and the operating personnel will require intermediate vocational education. I urge readers to go into the developing nuclear field and explore the world of opportunities that RNPP will present to them.

As for me, I plan to devote the next few years solely to work at the nuclear power plant. I want to work in the reactor hall to check the condition of the NPP equipment. It will all be a very demanding but exciting job, and I can't wait to see the new NPP in operation!

Writer: Mohammad Hamidul Haque, MEPhI graduate, and Specialist at JSC Rosenergoatom, in the People's Republic of Bangladesh 

BDST: 1556 HRS, May 15, 2021
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