The Roopur Nuclear Power Plant Project: From Ayub Khan's eyewash to Hasina's Dangerous Reality

Sheikh Hasina puts her name on the Roopur Nuclear Power Plant (Source: BBC)
The Roopur nuclear power plant is a Russian financed and constructed 1000 MW project sited by a highly variable and erosive river, 30 km from Bangladesh's border with India. It was originally conceived, poorly, by the Pakistan government in 1961 as the site for a small 10 MW experimental reactor.

Just to the south of the Lalon Shah Bridge in the Ishwardi upazila (subdistrict) of Pabna district, it lies in the Awami League run Pabna-4 constituency. Indeed local, regional and international alignments are important for mega projects.

Objections from scientists
Voice for Justice, a group of Deshi scientists from around the world wrote to the IAEA expressing concern about it on June 30th, but the Awami League Government has embarked on the building process in the run up to the election. In this letter questions are raised about the location, financing and safety of the plant, technical expertise and the obsolescence of the Rosotom VVER-1000 reactor, which is considered unsafe for the EU. For engineering geeks there is a wiki page on the Voda Voda Energo Reactor.

A bunch of Mugs?
After surveying Bangladesh's nuclear establishment in 2011, the IAEA recommended that the capability to act as a “knowledgeable customer” should be developed (slide 34). My feeling is that this is technocrat speak for "you are a bunch of mugs", but it is an exciting technofix. 

As an ex-physicist who used to believe that the worlds problems would be solved if only we figured out how to achieve sustainable nuclear fusion, it enthused me when I first heard of it. To add to the cringe factor I wandered and blagged my way into the Atomic Energy Commission in Agargaon back in the day and had a really interesting chat with them.

Political value
One one level this is geopolitical science, a lot of Deshi scientists were trained on Moscow, much of the left was Moscow aligned and this is a big boon for them all. For example, C S Karim, the ex-head of the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission and ex Caretaker Government Advisor was trained in Moscow, he must be loving this. 

There is little noise from the hard left in Bangladesh on this, whose campaigning efforts seem focussed on the Rampal Coal plant commencing near the Sundarbans. Suddenly Deshi city folks care about tigers. Its weird.

Its worth noting that the same plant nearly got built in West Bengal under the leadership of the Left Front, before the new regional government binned the idea in 2011 following agitation.

Nuclear Developmentia
For their sins, the Russians have set up a Nuclear Energy Information Centre in Dhaka, I hope that their propaganda is critically appreciated. It reminds me of the role of Sense about Science in promoting GM research in the UK. A strange blend of revolutionary communist interpretations of science.

Debate and rigorous scrutiny
There needs to be a sober debate about all the aspects of this project and the power problem in Bangladesh. 
  1. Do our people know the impacts of a leak, or an accident, or an attack on the plant by India? Its potentially an amazing way to poison the southern half of the country. Oh yes and Dhaka.
  2. What if there isn't enough water for cooling in the River because of upstream withdrawals at the Farraka Barrage? 
  3. How is the river morphology of the Ganges-Padma likely to change near the Roopur site?
  4. What if a combination of events conspire to undermine the plant, its supply chains and waste disposal?
Research and Policy Creativity
This government made electricity-related election pledges and wasted their opportunity to make a difference by relying on short term, costly solutions (rental power plants) and dangerous non-solutions of geopolitical alliance and liability (Rampal Coal Plant with India, Roopur Nuclear Plant with Russia).

The country could really benefit from a soulful technological mojo, but it remains elusive. Aside from the climate doomsayer's environmental determinism and reckless epistemicaly autistic techno-optimism there are transformative vistas and creative solutions which perhaps are not so sexy but safer and more real.

The problem with the power sector is a tricky one, the late Quamrul Islam Siddiqui, founder of the Local Government Engineering Department that pioneered district road building in Bangladesh had a crack at it, but power is a tricky beast and he clearly didn't manage to fix it. Here is a link to the Power Development Boards overview of itself. 

Some interesting facts
Pakistan's electricity generation capacity ~ 21 000 MW (183 millions people) 115 Watts/citizen
West Bengal's electricity generation capacity ~ 5 500 MW (91 million people) 60 Watts/citizen
Bangladesh's electricity generation capacity ~7 200 MW (155 million people) 46 Watts /citizen

Makes you wonder about what is really going on in the power sector doesn't it?

To Do
  • Fund some veteran engineers, and canny people from the sector to undertake deep research into its function and dysfunction.
  • Get everybody to pay their bills.
  • Resist developmentor prescriptions.
  • Incentivise local renewable uptake.
  • Encourage community based gas exploitation technologies.
  • Exploit every last clean development mechanism gizmo.
  • Heed UBINIG approaches.


Hasina and Khaleda Zia speak on the Bangladesh elections as the BNP's Oct 25th protest approaches

Consider this an evolving notebook as the 24th October end of government looms as ultraviolence looks very likely to revisit the streets of Bangladesh.

The Dhaka Metropolitan Commissioner Benazir Ahmed, who hails from the Prime Minster's ancestral area Gopalganj has annonced a ban on political rallies, and the main opposition BNP are adamant to hold a big rally in Dhaka on 25th October. To this end a BNP leader and ex Mayor of Dhaka Sadeque Hussain Khokha gargled out some fearsome words before going into hiding while the more polite MFI Alamgir mumbled something about this being the final khela(play)

Yet given the ultraviolence that the Awami League sprung on the country on 28th October 2006, and the encouragement their thugs received by being given a free right to kill so many people over the past 8 months in broad daylight, it is a fearful time and anything is possible.

Furthermore, after the attacks on Hefazot supporters in Dhaka on the 5th and 6th May killed unknown scores, the police, RAB, BGB and media could bring even further disgrace to themselves in the coming weeks and months.

Thus spoke Sheikh Hasina and Khaleda Zia

In this setting the Prime Minster's speech last friday was an important from the point of view of public relations and self image. Watch it below for analytical kicks.

PM Sheikh Hasina Speech on National TV on Friday evening 18th October 2013

Note how she tries to play the sympathy card towards the end re: the murder of her 10 year old brother 38 years ago and how she asks for our prayers as she sits underneath a picture of her father underneath the Shahada of Islam.

Below is one of her principle oppoonent's responses.

Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia Response on 20th October.

Points include
  • That civil institutions aren't allowed to work freely.
  • Many civil servants have been flung away ( OSD'd) because the government smelled different politics on their bodies.
  • The police look like they have been turned into an Army fighting a war.
  • Challenges Hasina to a fair election.
  • Mocks Hasina's helicopter riding for voters with the boat symbol.
  • Mocks governments single song sheet of blaming opposition for everything.
  • "If you think that you will do an election with RAB, Police and what was that...BGB..BDR? Then that will not be allowed in this country"
  • Contests Awami League freedom fighting credentials.
  • Free Mahmudur Rahman, the detained editor of Amar Desh, he did no wrong.
  • We want the return of Ilyas Ali, and all the dissapeared leaders.
  • Protests the toruture applied to Shibir's young leader Delwar Hussain, whats wrong with working for a party.
  • We stopped exam fraud, incumbents have brought it back.
  • Contests Awami league claims and appropriations of development work and women's education.
  • Stressed the need to save the younger generation.
A day later Khaleda Zia gave a more formal intervention with a more internationally tuned message stressing the need to change political culture and a whole lot of stuff that sounds nice but probably goes over the heads of many arseholes in her party. Its interesting seeing who is in the audience.

in it she mentions the attack on the Hefazot rally explicitly and points out this vital truth.

"...restlessness and confrontation in the society has increased due to the Awami League government’s wrong policy of identifying militancy with the peace loving religious organizations and religion based legitimate political parties. This has adversely affected the drive against militancy."

David Bergman analyses it here, best skip to the end and read the speech before his selective analysis.

Protest Promotion Videos

Demonstrations of street power are now the name of the game and this Friday 25th October the BNP will try their hand. These are the guys who didnt exactly help hefazots cause by threatening to overthrow the government just before Hefazot came in for a walk.

But street power needs to be suplimented by media power. With opposition papers under the cosh, even the technophobic BNP have to bypass the coporates and have a go at something new. The video below is from them, complete with disconcertingly jolly Bangladesh Biman-freindly soundtrack.

The next one is from Shibir supporters, and probably the second shittest video in all of Political Islam.


The first shittiest being that of a similar combine which appropriated and exploited Hefazot as well as their 5thMay protest for their own very narrow purposes. I beleive they have the right to exist untortured, but fucking hell they can be irresponsible wankers.


The al Shabab video, the unthreatened leaders and decolonial ummah love for East Africa

Social Media Wars are the cheaper kind

Last night I picked up a story about some Muslim figures being directly threatened by the ever degenerating Al Shabab in an hour long video. If I recall correctly it was journalist Mehdi Hasan tweeting solidarity to the allegedly threatened.

Fair enough, I mean who wants to go through videos you could get locked up for viewing

The Guardian's Shiv Malik named Mo Ansar (the cuddly), Usama Hasan (the cornered sellout) and Ajmal Masroor ( the dimpley), while ITV's footage focused on the linkages with the Mall attack in Nairobi a few weeks ago, citing access to a Kenyan intelligence report on the atrocity and featuring the Henry Jackson Foundation.

Tracking down the elusive video 

Searching last night I found pukesome films by the al Kataib, demonstrating their efficacy with deadly rifles, video cameras and editing software,

This morning the url ( i think) was circulating on twitter You too can take a Daily Motion link to a surreal experience of degenerated jihadi PR, a la Four Lions, interleaved with 25 second adverts.

I'm not a terrorism industrialist, clearly, but there were many other Muslim figures featured in the video and notwithstanding the exasperating call to arms and meat cleavers generally, I cant make out the bit with a specific threat against those three individuals.

Shiv Malik is generally known as a bit of a prick but lets have a (Muslim) roll call of this 58 minute piece of shoytani. Condemning the Woolwich soldier's murder and featuring in the media collage we had Dr Shuja Shafi (MCB), Farooq Murad (MCB) Somali looking community leader, Hamza Tsortzis, Maulana Shamsuduha (Ebrahim College), Shayk Ibrahim Mogra (MCB), Muhammed Shafique (Cordoba Foundation) and Amir Taheri, who makes a thoughtful point on the need to detoxify Islam.

Perhaps these less mediatised guys aren't worth making up sympathy over? Perhaps there is something I don't know going on. Stranger things have been true.

Where are the threats?
That I'm not able to perceive the threats to the headlining three makes me wonder to what extent this is a set up and to what extent its a deeply troubling set up. It also reminds me of Leyton Masjid-gate.

In the posturing badboy corner we were treated to Anjem Choudhury, pretty much frontlining, along with Ayman Zawahiri, the AQ boss, and our narrator, Gazi BagOnHisHead who makes a cheesy meal of musing on the diversity of UK recruits. Many of us believe Anjem Chauhdury is a government plant, but we also know that there are no limits to the stupidity of youngsters who wrap themselves up in a naive, romanticised identity of Mujahid.

The sad thing was that lots of the people who's faces were flashed in our faces had passed on. Gotta feel for the sincerity lost, misled and families broken by this.

I think, by the derivative quality of the video and its petty obsession with little people in the UK, that AQ are pretty much several more half lives along their exponential decay curve. This I suppose is the good news in amongst the fear for Somali and Kenyan people are times get more fearful for them


[Documentary] Mediastan a new film from WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks excites me, it has allowed us some insight into the minds of the powerful, filtered through the writings of US political officers. As im pretty obsessed with Bangladesh these days, I found the Manning releases as well as the Kissinger Cables quite illuminating, not least because in 1975 there were 3 coups in Bangladesh.

Assange tends to attract strong opinions, feminists for whom gender is the primary politics rejected him over the rape allegations. Journalists who work with him tend not to appreciate that he doesn't follow their structures of discipline.


Yesterday I found out that WikiLeaks has released a film Mediastan, in an attempt to communicate what they are about and complement The Fifth Estate, a big budget film which focusses of Assange and which he opposed. Link below.

I also came across this blog that is very critical of the film, raises some important issues but causes much mirth as she speaks of saving people then accuses the WikiLeaks kids of having a God Complex.

The Public Library of US Diplomacy can be found online HERE.


[Documentary] Final Solution, exploring Hindutva's ultraviolence in Gujarat 2002

This film was obstructed by Censors in India. It is an interview-based documentary. 150 mi ns.

The Court Judgement for the Naroda Patiya massacre, a sub atrocity for which a female MP amongst others were brought to book, though not severely enough for some.