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Russia gears up to build mini nuclear power plants in Sri Lanka

Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena with Russian Ambassador to Sri Lanka, Levan Dzhagaryan in Colombo on November 28, 2022 (Image courtesy: PMO, Sri Lanka)

Continuing with its renewed focus on South Asia, Russia has proposed to set up two mini nuclear power stations in Sri Lanka and add the island country to the region’s nuclear energy club.

Russia’s new Ambassador in Colombo Levan Dzhagaryan recently met the top officials of the Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Board (SLAEB) in a bid to set the wheels in motion and pave way for the visit of a high-level delegation from the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom.

Dzhagaryan, in an interview with Ceylon Today, revealed that Moscow plans to assist Sri Lanka in the construction of two mini nuclear power plants for official use with each station having a capacity of 55 megawatts.

“To begin with, it could be two plants, then four plants, and finally six plants. This suggestion was critical from several perspectives. First and foremost, this would save oil and coal. Second, because there will be no coal, it will be environmentally friendly, and the ecology will be safe and secure. It is also less expensive,” said the Russian Ambassador.

Last month, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Power and Energy Kanchana Wijesekera held talks with Dzhagaryan to discuss the country’s energy sector requirements and nuclear energy cooperation with Rosatom.

Interestingly, Dzhagaryan served as the Russian Ambassador to Iran for more than 11 years before coming to Sri Lanka. He not only oversaw the handing over of Iran’s first commercial nuclear reactor in Bushehr but also played a critical role in Tehran setting up more power units under Russian technologies.

Russia Iran
The Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) is being developed as part of a joint nuclear cooperation agreement between Russia and Iran

Immediately after his arrival in Colombo last November, Dzhagaryan met Lankan Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardana suggesting that the project can take off quickly as the energy crisis in the nation is continuing. The Russian diplomat believes that the setting up of mini nuclear power stations would not take much time.

“We have power stations all over Russia. We also have floating nuclear power stations for remote destinations,” he said adding that delegations from both countries have already had three rounds of video conferences on various topics such as ammonia and nuclear energy cyclotron.

Listing India as a “true friend”, the Russian Ambassador has been giving the example of civil nuclear cooperation through the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu which remains an important component of the India-Russia Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership.

Moscow is also helping Bangladesh in the construction of its maiden nuclear power plant in Rooppur.

Consultations on cooperation in the area of peaceful uses of atomic energy have been held between Moscow and Colombo in the past as well.

In January 2018, a top-level delegation of Rosatom and its subsidiaries paid a working visit to Sri Lanka holding negotiations with Lankan atomic energy agency and also then President Mithripala Sirisena.

It was also under Sirisena that Sri Lanka sealed a nuclear energy pact with India in January 2015, a few months after the Narendra Modi government came to power in New Delhi.

Also Read: Russia’s security chief Patrushev lands in Sri Lanka to rekindle Moscow’s romance with South Asia