Russia-backed nuclear project in Uzbekistan raises questions of safety, influence

By Maksim Yeniseyevi


Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, October 19 in Tashkent press a symbolic button to launch the construction of a new Moscow-backed nuclear power plant on October 19. [Uzbek presidential press office]

TASHKENT -- An agreement between Moscow and Tashkent to build a new nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan -- the first such project in Central Asia -- is already raising eyebrows about Russia's attempt to cling to influence in the former Soviet republic.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Uzbek counterpart, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, officially launched the project on October 19 in Tashkent.

Under an agreement inked with Uzbekistan, Rosatom, Russia's state owned nuclear power corporation, will construct by 2028 a plant consisting of two power units, each with a capacity of 1,200MW.

The agreement is part of Uzbekistan's efforts to develop nuclear energy, which included the establishment of the Agency for the Development of Atomic Energy (Uzatom) July 19.


Picture, dated October 1, 1986, showing repairs being carried out on the Soviet-built Chernobyl nuclear plant in the Ukraine, following a catastrophic nuclear accident on April 26, 1986. It is considered the worst nuclear accident in history, causing widespread radiation damage and sickness for decades following. [Valery ZUFAROV / TASS / AFP]


Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister of Alisher Sultanov and Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev are shown at the proposed construction site of a Russia-backed nuclear power plant October 19 in Jizzakh Province. [Uzatom]

Uzbekistan also has plans to create a Concept for the Development of Nuclear Energy up until 2029 and to begin training personnel with the assistance of Rosatom.

The plant will cost about $11 billion [90.6 trillion UZS], according to Kremlin sources, but the exact price tag is unknown.

Russian influence

The new project will increase Russia's influence in the region, fear some analysts.

"$11 billion is a lot of money," Tashkent-based economist Shukurullo Mavlonov told Caravanserai.

"For comparison, the entire budget of Uzbekistan for 2018 does not exceed $8 billion [66 trillion UZS]," he said. "We have no information about how the construction will be paid for."

"Therefore, it is almost impossible to say whether the station will pay off at all," he said. "Uzbekistan has huge problems with outdated power grid infrastructure. If we invest in its modernisation, it is possible to get the same power increase that the nuclear power plant will give us."

Other observers doubt the feasibility of such an expensive project and consider it to be politically driven.

"I think that this project is more political than economic," Tashkent-based political scientist Umid Asatullayev told Caravanserai.

"Even if it does not bring obvious profits, Russia will achieve its goal, he said. "Maintaining the ... plant will require constant Russian assistance."

"The station will be the most powerful centre of Russian influence in Uzbekistan," said Asatullayev.

Environmental concerns

Meanwhile, environmentalists and local residents are raising concerns over the potential construction site of the Russia-backed plant, which authorities have not yet decided.

Authorities muddied the picture by identifying two sites in past weeks.

The site of construction will be at Tudakul Lake in Bukhara Province, Illkham Sadikov, director of the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan, said at a Tashkent news conference October 9.

However, during the ceremonial launch of the project October 19, Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Alisher Sultanov and Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev were at another potential site, Lake Aydarkul in Jizzakh Province.

"The change of the proposed construction site at the last moment indicates a rush in the preparation of the project," Tashkent environmentalist Mansur Akramov told Caravanserai.

"In addition, no details are known to the public, which causes tension," he said. "One of the important questions is where will we bury the [nuclear] waste? How will we ensure security against the threat of a terrorist act and of the proliferation of nuclear technology?"

"The only 100% guarantee against an accident is not to build the plant at all," Akramov said.

Both sites have drawbacks, even though one is rather remote, he said.

"Lake Tudakul is the only recreational site for the residents of Bukhara," said Akramov. "There are no other large bodies of water around."

"Bukhara residents very much fear living beside a nuclear power station," he said.

The other site, Lake Aydarkul in Jizzakh Province, "is far from any town", he continued. "But the nature here is unique, and tourism has just started to develop; regular campgrounds and yurt camps have been built ... [but] nobody is going to vacation near the power plant."

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If nuclear power plant will not be built, people never will not be provided with stable electricity. These old leaders are afraid of troubles of construction and do not know what to do after the construction.


The nuclear power plant project is detrimental and dangerous to the region in every aspect; it is costly and knowingly cost-ineffective. Besides the danger of radioactive contamination during operation, further circulation of nuclear waste in the region with a long hot summer and the lake without water drainage, these factors double or triple all the risks; the seismic activity in the area increases the risk of the facility having potential explosion hazard. Now the economy: the project costs $11 billion; with a capacity of 2.4 GW, prime costs will be no less than $0.15 per kW (at the current price of $0.035/kW). One can build a solar power plant with a capacity of 12 GW for $11 billion; that would be 5.5 times more in terms of capacity with the costs of 0.025 or six times cheaper as well. Moreover, solar projects have no leverage affecting the country; they are financed with direct foreign investments and are self-sufficient. Not only is the nuclear project six times more expensive than the alternative solar project, but the government will also have to get a loan from Russia, which will be a high-maintenance and lifetime debt.


There's kilowatt and kilowatt--HOUR, but NO brain!


If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Uzbekistan needs nuclear power plant


Having nuclear power plants is no longer prestigious, but is a testament to drudgery and backwardness; HOWEVER, it is impossible to get rid of them, even if they have gone to ruins (and those even more so). They are only needed so that bureaucrats can take bribes and siphon off money. And also for Putin as a source of hard currency for a stale product of Bolshevik bungling that has lost its market value.


It will be necessary to get all the stolen money back from abroad to pay for the project; and not let [people] steal from the people like the first president's daughter Gulnara Karimova did, for example. Also, we need to dump the system created by Karimov - when a high-ranking official pilfered state funds or did something illegal, they were removed only to get a different job. It means nobody held them accountable. For instance, recently the former minister who likes abusing [people] became the Khakim [mayor] of Samarkand. Where is the logic and honour here?


For what sins Jizzakh is one of the poorest provinces in the region? The fault is that president is from these lands? Why can't they build it in deserts of Navoiy or Karakalpakstan? And why do you need to put the Uzbek people at risk and build it? We do not have technology and expertise like Japanese (we are 100-200 years behind), everyone is abroad, so accident is inevitable. Why can't they spend funds for modernizing electricity sector. If they gave those 30-60 thousand dollars they are giving to “High end” professionals to people who have gone abroad to upgrade their skills or support the talented people Uzbekistan would have flourished to the level of Russia, USA, Japan, China.


I wish you had Fukushima. Japs have no nuclear power plant projects.
The occupants won't let anybody [do that], parts are made in the USA. And spare me talking about all the American reactor accidents, go google it. China employs our technology and America stopped doing it about 30 years ago


is the country Ruthenia really "flourishing"?

Comment removed for violating comments policy

They write this about themselves


What can we do if Presidents have decided the construction of Nuclear Power Plant, why do we need Nuclear Power Plant if it is dangerous… I do not know


This is your style, as always. Everything is bad, Russia is the culprit. Don't be so biased! Even if someone made you feel bad, it should not influence your work. Write [articles] about positive aspects as well.


Renewable energy has become cheaper than oil and gas in 30 countries According to the report of the World Economic Forum (WEF), in 2016, renewable energy became cheaper or equaled the price of fossil fuels in more than 30 countries. Among them - Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Australia. According to analysts of Deutsche Bank, in the next few years their number will grow to 80% of all countries in the world. Head of the WEF Infrastructure and Investment in Development Division Michael Drexler said: “Renewable energy has reached a turning point. It is not only commercially viable, but also represents an attractive investment opportunity with a long-term, stable, inflation-protected income.” In 2015, at the UN conference on climate change in Paris, it was decided that by 2030, $ 1 trillion should be invested in renewable energy sources annually. In fact, in 2015, investments in this sector amounted to only $ 286 billion, with more than half of this amount - $ 156 billion - invested in developing countries. China is in first place in terms of investment in renewable energy, it has invested $ 102 billion. Solar and wind energy lead by a large margin - the first is $ 161 billion, the second is $ 109.6 billion, and other forms of energy are $ 15.2 billion. Source:


Solar energy According to the Asian and World Banks, the gross potential of solar energy in Uzbekistan exceeds 51 billion tons of oil equivalent amounting to 99.7% of all the researched energy sources in the country. These resources would allow to generate electricity exceeding annual energy consumption 40-fold. A solar photoenergy 130 kW testing power plant (SPPP) was launched April 8 2015 in Papsky district, Namangan Province (Uzbekistan). Its main goal is testing various novel types of solar panels and modules, their technical and economical parameters in the Uzbek environment in order to identify systems with a higher COP [coefficient of performance]. The power plant will become a testing ground for honing operational skills necessary to run such systems and training local specialists. The Ministry of Economy of Uzbekistan signed a memorandum on construction of the testing SPPP with the Ministry of Energy of South Korea. The construction was funded by Korea granting $0.7 million. Uzbekistan plans to launch three heliostations generating 300 MW combined by 2020. The Uzbek government intends to construct the heliostations in Namangan and Surxondaryo Provinces. Uzbekenergo press office said December 20 2016 that Zhuhai Singyes Green Building Tech company (China) [the original Russian comment has not been finished]


All this green energy stuff only sounds good for stupid laymen. It is almost zero compared to the amount of electricity generated in the world. And when there's no alternative [to the green energy, the authorities] would impose such a huge tax on you for keeping and disposing of those freaking batteries that nuclear energy would seem manna from heaven to you


Don't worry, observers; don't be scared, analysts; don't panic, Bukhara residents - everything will be just FI-NE. And Caravanshit, learn geography immediately, you school kids.


Go and get your 3-4 pennies from Russian cooperation. What have you lost here?


I wouldn't call this peanuts. Thanks to MOTHER RUSSIA


To father Stalin and also to daddy Putin