https://central.asia-news.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_ca/features/2020/05/12/feature-01
| Energy

Catastrophic floods in Uzbekistan revive concerns over Russian-backed nuclear project

By Maksim Yeniseyev

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Officials unveil the location of a future nuclear power plant at Lake Aydarkul last September 4. [Uzatom]

TASHKENT -- Catastrophic flooding in Sirdaryo (Syrdarya) Province has revived worries over the risks involved with the Russian-made nuclear plant set to be built in another area of potential flooding.

A dam broke at the Sardoba Reservoir in Uzbekistan on May 1, prompting the evacuation of more than 70,000 residents. On May 2, the water reached Maktaaral District, Turkistan Province, Kazakhstan, where several settlements were also flooded. Rescue personnel evacuated more than 30,000 residents.

At least four persons died in the disaster and during rescue efforts, according to the US embassy in Tashkent.

"An official investigation has begun... it ruled out a natural disaster. My personal opinion is that the cause ... lies in poor-quality construction and a violation of building standards," said Tashkent-based hydraulic engineer Anvar Ruzikulov.

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Uzbek soldiers clear rubble after flooding in Sirdaryo Province on May 3. [Uzbek Defence Ministry]

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Uzbek soldiers clear rubble after flooding in Sirdaryo Province on May 3. [Uzbek Defence Ministry]

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Uzbek counterpart, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, kick off the nuclear power plant project October 19, 2018, in Tashkent. [Uzatom]

Uzbek workers built the reservoir, but Russian companies took part in its development.

Russian company Power Machines was to participate in building a small hydro-electric station at the dam, according to an announcement on January 29.

Roseximbank of Moscow issued a loan of €21.3 million (234 billion UZS) to finance the construction.

The United States stepped in to aid survivors. "USAID [US Agency for International Development] is providing $100,000 [1 billion UZS] to a local organisation to procure and distribute essential relief supplies to families affected by the disaster," the US embassy in Tashkent said in a statement May 8.

Safety concerns

The disaster has raised concerns over the safety of Uzbekistan's first nuclear power plant, which Rosatom is helping build in Jizzakh Province, just 100km from the Sardoba Reservoir. Rosatom is a Russian state corporation that builds nuclear power installations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Uzbek counterpart, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, marked the start of the project in October 2018 in Tashkent.

Authorities last September decided to build the plant near the Aydarkul system of lakes.

"No one could have imagined a dam breach at Sardoba ...The same thing can happen anywhere," said Ruzikulov.

"Lake Aydarkul, whose banks are where workers will build the nuclear power plant, itself came about from a man-made disaster. In 1969, flooding resulted from a spring thaw. The Shardara Reservoir in Kazakhstan could not withstand it, and [workers] released overflow water into the lowland area," he said.

Under the agreement, Rosatom will build two power-generating units with a capacity of 1,200MW each by 2028. The exact cost of the power plant is unknown, but according to sources at the Kremlin, it will be about $11 billion (90.6 trillion UZS).

Observers expect officials to wrap up the final contract in June, as well as construction to start in 2022, TASS reported. A Russian loan is expected to finance the construction.

Engineering work is progressing at the site near Lake Aydarkul.

In February, the Uzbek Energy Ministry announced that public hearings would take place soon in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan on the construction of the power plants.

Public opposition

Uzbeks have long expressed concerns over the safety of the proposed plant.

A Facebook group called "Uzbeks against the nuclear power plant!" has more than 2,000 members.

"We shouldn't have a nuclear power plant. We don't know how to build dams, but here you have a nuclear power plant... let every resident of Uzbekistan understand [this] and protest against the nuclear power plant, because it will actually be a nuclear time bomb in our common home," wrote group member Nodir Tukhtayev on May 1.

Public figures, journalists and lawmakers have expressed their opposition to the nuclear power plant's construction after the disaster at Sardoba.

"How many people must die to make it understood? -- something is wrong with the regulations and rules for construction sites in our country. And I don't really want a nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan," Uzbek journalist Darina Solod wrote on her Facebook page May 4.

"Not because I'm scared of nuclear energy. I'm afraid of the people who will work with it," she said.

The Soviet-era environmental disaster at Chernobyl in 1986, and other Russian nuclear-related projects, are still fresh in people's minds.

"Another conclusion is -- given this state of affairs in construction -- not only should we not build a nuclear power plant, but we should not even come close to it," said Doniyor Ganiyev, an MP from the Uzbekistan Liberal Democratic Party.

Inhabitants of neighbouring countries are urging reconsideration of the plan to construct the nuclear power plant.

"Uzbek govt plans to build a nuclear power plant on its territory and launch it in 10 years. Central Asia's security considerations must be revised after Sardoba water reservoir burst last week which had an impact on up to 100,000 population in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan," Kyrgyz researcher and journalist Ryskeldi Satke wrote on Twitter May 4.

Do you support efforts by your government to prevent, or reduce, its dependency on Russia?
37 Comment(s)
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People are saying the right things. No one knows what this nuclear power plant could lead to. Chernobyl was more than enough. We remember it to this day.

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One kW of solar energy currently costs 1.35 cents. Recently, the UAE launched such a power plant. Russia doesn't want Central Asian countries to be as developed as South Korea or Singapore. Russia needs backward countries to easily rule them. That's why emergency situations at the nuclear plant in Central Asia are GUARANTEED

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Come on - do we need a nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan? Solar power plants should be built here, since we have 364 bright, sunny days a year.

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Uzbekistan needs a nuclear power plant; energy demand will increase twofold in the very near future.

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Development of solar energy is needed in Uzbekistan; it's a much more peaceful effort than atomic [energy]

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A Russian company will be building it; and there's nothing to worry about. Are we going to be scared of everything now? Everybody needs electricity; and solar energy is costly. Our country is not that rich.

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For seventy years all of the former Soviet republics had been slaving away one five year plan after another developing the USSR's space program, nuclear arsenal, and defence industry; - and Russia took all of it. Is it possible that our grandchildren will be slaving away for the Russian economy, defence industry, space program, and nuclear arsenal? I remind you that the RSFSR and Rosatom have depleted the uranium mines in Krasnogorsk and Angren in Soviet Uzbekistan.

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Building a nuclear power plant in a seismic hazard zone is prohibited
Did you forget the earthquake in Tashkent?
Do you want a new Chernobyl?!!

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There was sabotage in Chernobyl

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Not residents! The elites and sellout and not-that-smart politicians have been bought up!!! Freeloader!!!! Alex

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Uzbekistan joined the group of the countries not using nuclear (atomic) technological equipment on its territory. Why, then, build a nuclear power plant and waste $22 billion in the people's money to build two nuclear plants? Western countries like Germany and others are stopping their use of nuclear power plants and closing these plants down, understanding that a nuclear power plant is a ticking time bomb. Chernobyl and the plant in Japan are good examples. It's not quite clear whether officials in Uzbekistan consider these examples. I believe the alternative energy sources, new technologies and knowhow both of the developed countries and domestic should be considered. There are such inventions in Uzbekistan but Uzbek officials hide this fact from the president of Uzbekistan having their interest in the projects and deals (kickbacks) from the contractors. Making environmentally-friendly (green) energy will solve many problems in this country.

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Clean energy costs a lot of money. And here they are offering a line of credit to build a nuclear power plant. If you say the people are unable to master cutting-edge technology, you are demeaning your own people; we are descendants of Biruni, Ulugh Beg...

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What do our great ancestors have to do with it? Don't forget about human error. Aeroplanes fall out of the sky; missiles explode on launch pads; water reservoirs burst, nuclear reactors blow up. One can cite the endless list of disasters and mishaps precipitated by human error! And this equipment is ostensibly operated by highly skilled specialists, after all. Can you make a 100% guarantee they won't fail even if they had the most sophisticated safeguards? Can you 100% guarantee there will be no magnitude 8-10 earthquake?

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Russia is a long-time, trustworthy friend that selflessly helped us many times as a real friend of our country. Russia helps with deeds, not words.

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Solar batteries. That's what we need to invest in. [People] know how to make money, but spending it wisely still needs to be learned.

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Did anybody calculate the cost of alternative energy and how much space photoelements would require if you set them in sparsely populated areas? But then you would be dealing with other problems like transport infrastructure and cleaning the surfaces from dust. Dear liberals, figure out the cost impact of building a nuclear power plant on the economy; then dependence on American partners will decrease sharply.

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I support the independence of my country

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We need to build a solar power plant in Uzbekistan! These projects exist; we need to develop them.

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The USSR, in this case, Russia, has always been a trustworthy strategic partner of our country. We should not reject a reliable friend who helped us so many times in this world where lone wolves can't survive. Moreover, we have deep common historical and social roots.

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Considering that Russian "experts" are very low-quality, that's a dangerous nuclear power plant

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Powder keg!!!

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Uzbekistan has a lot of sunlight. They should use it. Anomalous heat waves, corruption, unqualified workers, carelessness, and the greediness of "construction companies" ruin everything and everyone

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It's America yet again. I'm tired of American interference; just don't steal and make highly qualified specialists work. And everything will be fine...

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We also remember Chernobyl

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21 levels of protection

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Building nuclear power plants is impermissible and dangerous, and Putin should not lobby for his project, showing everyone that he has Lady Luck on his side!

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These Russian nuclear power plants will explode on the second day because the famous Russian specialists with balalaikas are building the plants

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No, you will be sitting on the sand strumming your dutar. That's what you get mindlessly browsing the Internet instead of learning. Sell out your car, if you have it, and ride the donkey.

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The seismic activity of the construction area also needs to be taken into account.

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Let them build it, you're not going to be left sitting in the dark.

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Build it in your Ryazan. Nothing to be sorry for there.

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Remember Chernobyl! The USSR kept denying the disaster until the end

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They are making you zombies here, you bumpkins. This is a website financed by the US budget

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Are the mansions built by bureaucrats using money allocated for the dam strong enough, and are their swimming pools filled to the brim?

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No Russian nuclear power plants can be built there.

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Unlike Kazakhstan, we never had either Roskosmos or Rosatom here. Rosatom shall remain, and we don't need unwanted problems in the "post-Soviet space" for everyone, except for the Baltic states, on top of age-old corruption

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Thieves, swindlers, simpletons - unite!

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