B'desh seeks nuclear option to boost energy supply

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DHAKA, Sep 24 (Reuters) Bangladesh plans to set up anuclear plant to produce between 600 and 1,000 megawatts of power to ease the country's nagging energy shortage, a senior energy official said today.

The project, which may cost up to 1.5 billion dollars, will be submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by the middle of next month for technical assistance, and aims to produce power by 2015, he said.

A delegation of the atomic energy watchdog will visit Bangladesh in December this year, said M Fouzul Kabir Khan, secretary of the Energy Ministry's power division.

Tapan Chowdhury, adviser to the Bangladesh's army-backed interim government in charge of power, energy and mineral resources, last week visited Vienna and held talks with the director general of IAEA Mohamed El Baradi seeking technical assistance for setting up the plant, the official said.

Bangladesh laws allow the peaceful use of nuclear energy, officials said.

''The IAEA delegation will examine the security and safety measures to provide technical support for the Bangladesh nuclear plant,'' Kabir told Reuters.

Tapan told the IAEA chief of Bangladesh's concern over a huge shortage of power and its wish to set up the nuclear plant as the principal source of power, as natural gas reserves in the country are depleting fast.

Bangladesh might face a severe power crisis after 2011, when its gas reserves are likely to be exhausted fully, unless new gas fields are discovered and explored, government officials said.

At present, Bangladesh has 13.54 trillion cubic feet of proven and recoverable gas reserves, they said.

Bangladesh's power shortfall sometime soared to 2,000 mw, as the power generation came down to 3,000 mw against the demand of about 5,000 mw, due to mechanical troubles in most of the 60 decades-old power plants.

REUTERS SZ AS1340

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