Uzbekistan and Rosatom to build joint nuclear power plant

Victoria Panfilova, columnist of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, specially for Vestnik Kavkaza
Uzbekistan and Rosatom to build joint nuclear power plant

Uzbekistan will be the first country in Central Asia to have a nuclear power plant. The agreement for construction can be signed already this autumn during the official visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Tashkent. Construction works will begin no later than 2019. Geographically, the nuclear power plant will provide energy to the west and the center of the country, which makes it more oriented towards industrial needs, especially given the powerful cluster in Navoiy, where the station is planned to be built.

Details of the NPP construction project were discussed in Tashkent during the talks between Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Director General of the State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom Alexei Likhachev. Likhachev told the reporters that the Uzbek side offered the Navoiy region as a site for a future nuclear power plant. "Only these days we leave and start gathering information. We agreed on the approaches to the project organization. In this case, there will be no clear role for the customer and the contractor. This is the approach when we build together when we build ourselves for ourselves. We apply this approach only in Russia and Belarus, when together with the government of the country we determine all aspects, including the cost of the project, we are jointly responsible for its implementation. It reduces the time frame, provides mechanisms that insure us from higher costs," Likhachev said. According to him, a modern nuclear infrastructure will be created in the republic. In particular, there will be a regulator, conventionally called Atomnadzor, which will monitor all work together with the Russian corporation, according to the four eyes principle.

Rosatom proposes to build a station consisting of two modern VVER-1200 units of 3+ generation. A similar project is being implemented by Rosatom in Bangladesh. It is estimated at about $13 billion, of which $11.3 billion provided by Russia as a state export credit. The cost of the Belarus NPP was $10 billion. The cost of the Uzbek nuclear power plant is unknown yet. Expert Kubat Rakhimov believes that the Uzbek nuclear power plant will be more expensive, since it will be difficult to solve the issue of a cooling system in Navoiy without sufficient quantity of running water and / or large water bodies.

Russia is ready to offer Uzbekistan several options for financing the project, including on the terms of a state loan, a scheme of borrowed money from the market, investing its own funds, as well as the BOO scheme (build-own-operate). In addition, the possibility of allocating borrowed funds for the construction of the station from the Russian Export Center is being discussed.

In addition to the station, research reactors will be built, exploration and development of uranium deposits, production of isotopes and their use in industry will be carried out, as well as training of personnel for Uzbekistan's nuclear industry.

The NPP construction project in Uzbekistan wasn't born yesterday. Director of the Ma'no Center for Research Initiatives (Uzbekistan) Bakhtiyir Ergashev told Vestnik Kavkaza: "Those things that we discussed in the Center for Economic Research eight years ago become a reality. I am sure that the contract will be signed this year. Maybe during Putin's state visit to Uzbekistan. And the construction will begin in 2019. It should not be delayed. I hope that the construction of the nuclear power plant (new generating capacities) will be the impetus for a radical reform of the country's energy supply system, which is completely rotten, corrupted, with savage losses of up to 38%. We should recall the successful experience in implementing the projects of the early 2000 on private companies entering the market of electric power sales and demonopolization of this sphere."

"The tasks and construction of the nuclear power plant in Central Asian countries are relevant, because there is no alternative to such a reliable, cheap and environmentally friendly source of energy.Coal is source of air pollution, water is linked to relations with neighbors and irrigated lands. There are no other large-scale sources of electricity. Green energy is propaganda and politics around the world. Alternative sources exist all over the world only until ordinary generation is subject to additional taxes.The atomic generation is the sole way for large industrial projects," director for cultural, scientific and educational projects of the Center for Traditional Cultures (Moscow) Alexander Sobyanin told Vestnik Kavkaza. According to him, nuclear power engineers have been discussing the construction of nuclear power plants in Central Asia over the last decade. It was about one or two nuclear power plants in Tajikistan, one nuclear power plant in Kyrgyzstan, two in Uzbekistan and one in Turkmenistan. "Of course, all of them are at very different stage of considering the issue. Among the Central Asian projects, except for Kazakhstan, the issue of building nuclear power plant has been most thoroughly worked out in Sughd region of Tajikistan and in Uzbekistan. Navoiy, where they proposed to build a nuclear power plant, has the largest mountain -metallurgical combine, and, accordingly, a cluster of mining and metallurgical industries: gold, silver, uranium. This project has a number of advantages: it allows to look differently at Tajikistan's hydroelectric stations (the height of dams) and Kazakhstan's nuclear power plant. Uzbekistan will be the first country in the region to built the nuclear power plant in conjunction with Rosatom. This allows to return to the task of creating a unified energy system of Central Asia and Russia. This task was set as early as in the 1960s, and has not yet been carried out," the expert said.

It's about reliability in providing the region with electricity and its cheapness. Sobyanin explained that a unified power system dramatically increases the reliability of its operation, the impossibility or low probability of blackouts, as well as dramatically reduces the price of electricity. The expert also noted the fact that Uzbekistan, through the development of cheap electric power, will ensure the growth of industrial production and the quality of life of the population. Any this task requires electricity. I do not see serious shortcomings here," Alexander Sobyanin said.

Answering the question of Vestnik Kavkaza about the impact of the construction of the nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan on the Rogun HPP, which is being built in Tajikistan, the expert said that Moscow and Tashkent will be able to influence Dushanbe more reasonably. Today the construction of the Rogun HPP is highly politicized and looks like Uzbekistan's pressure on small Tajikistan. After the creation of a unified energy system in Central Asia, there will be no need to build a large hydroelectric power station. The issue of the Rogun HPP will cease to be political within the two countries - Uzbekistan and Tajikistan - and will reach another level, i.e. will become a work-related Russian-Tajik issue. Russia will be responsible for the uniform supply of electricity. Tajikistan will have large volumes of electricity. The only downside is the West exerting pressure in all directions. In particular, it happened with Kazakhstan. "Astana was influenced in all directions. The project for the construction of the NPP in Western Kazakhstan passed all the approvals and public hearings, but then the West joined in. Political pressure was put on President Nursultan Nazarbayev, he received an offer from the French AREVA to build a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan, which did not involve its implementation. Their only task was preventing Rosatom from building the station. In the case of Uzbekistan, the pressure may not be so strong. The Uzbek economy does not depend on the global situation to such an extent as Kazakhstan. That is why the political pressure on Tashkent is not possible. French AREVA's offer is unlikely to be accepted," Sobyanin believes.

"Kazakhstan lost to Uzbekistan - having chic chances for the construction of a nuclear power plant, being the world's largest uranium supplier, having full-fledged Kazatomprom with its operating reactor in the Caspian, simultaneously having coal-fired power plants as the basis of energy is not serious," Kubat Rakhimov told Vestnik Kavkaza.