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Bangladesh starts building first nuclear plant

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Russia President Vladimir Putin (right) shakes hands with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during their meeting in Moscow, on January 15, 2013Pool/AFP/File

Energy-starved Bangladesh on Wednesday inaugurated the opening phase of work for its first ever nuclear power plant using Russian technology.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation stone of the Rooppur nuclear power plant in the country's northwest, which will have two 1,000 megawatt reactors costing up to $4 billion.

The impoverished South Asian nation signed a deal in November 2011 with the Russian state-owned nuclear giant Rosatom to build the power station and has secured soft loans from Moscow to finance 90 percent of the project.

"In building the plant, we have given utmost importance on the safety issues," Hasina said in a televised speech after the inauguration.

"We are strictly following the International Atomic Energy Agency's guidelines in building the plant to ensure 100-percent safety," she said.

The premier said that Russia would manage the nuclear waste by taking it back.

The first phase of work will include conducting feasibility and environmental and safety studies which would be completed over the next two years, A.S.M. Firoz, head of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission, told AFP.

The plant is expected to generate power by 2018 and help ease chronic power shortages that have hit industry hard.

It will also diversify the country's energy mix as Bangladesh has been overwhelmingly reliant on its fast dwindling gas reserves from the Bay of Bengal to produce electricity for its booming economy.

In 2007, Bangladesh received approval from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the industry's global watchdog, to set up a nuclear power plant.

Many countries worldwide are reconsidering their use of nuclear power in the wake of Japan's ongoing struggle with its stricken atomic plant in Fukushima which was damaged in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

Germany decided to scrap its nuclear power stations in favour of renewables, while Japan has switched off all its atomic reactors.