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Bangladesh starts building nuclear power plant

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October 2, 2013 01:09 PM EST | AP

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DHAKA, Bangladesh — DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh has begun work on its first nuclear power plant, which is to have two Russian-designed reactors and cost up to $4 billion.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation stone Wednesday for the nuclear plant in Rooppur in the country's northwest.

An initial reactor is expected to start generating 1,000 megawatts of power by 2018. A second reactor would later double that capacity to 2,000 megawatts.

Bangladesh signed a deal with Russian state-owned nuclear giant Rosatom in 2011 to build the plant. Russia agreed to provide low-cost loans to finance 90 percent of the project.

Bangladesh's decades-old gas-fired power plants are unable to generate enough electricity for the country's 150 million people, with a daily shortfall of about 2,000 megawatts.

The Asian Development Bank said Wednesday in its annual economic outlook that Bangladesh's growth is being constrained by poor infrastructure and electricity shortages.

There have been growing global concerns about the safety of atomic power since a powerful earthquake and tsunami damaged a nuclear plant in Japan in 2011. Hasina said her government is giving the highest importance to safety issues, and that Russia would take back the nuclear waste produced by the plant.

Russia also will train workers to run the plant. Relations between the two countries have been close since Russia backed Bangladesh in its 1971 war of independence with Pakistan.

The International Atomic Energy Agency gave Bangladesh approval in 2007 to build a nuclear power plant.