Uzbek Nuclear Plant Construction Set to Begin by End of 2022
Russia and Uzbekistan are making steady progress on their plans to cooperate in the construction of a nuclear power plant (NPP) in the Central Asian state. While proposals for the construction of an NPP in Uzbekistan have existed for many years, the first concrete step towards their realization was the adoption of the Russian-Uzbek agreement on cooperation in construction of an NPP on Uzbekistan’s territory. This agreement, signed by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his Uzbek counterpart Abdulla Aripov on September 7, 2018, laid the groundwork for a project which entails the construction of two Generation III+ VVER-1200 nuclear reactors.
Once completed, the NPP is expected to produce 2.4 gigawatts of electricity at peak capacity. Russian authorities have suggested a price tag of $11 billion for the electricity plant, though Tashkent has expressed the desire to negotiate a lower price before the construction contract is finalized. As it has done for similar NPP projects in Bangladesh and Belarus, Moscow has agreed to provide a financing package for most of the 10-figure price tag, though the details have not yet been finalized.
Since the preliminary agreement was signed in 2018, the NPP project has gotten attention from high-level political figures and made steady progress towards its realization. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev held a groundbreaking ceremony on October 7, 2018, together pressing a giant glowing button to symbolically mark the start of the project. A short list of eight potential sites for the plant was developed as the basis for more detailed seismological, geographical, and economic feasibility analysis, which concluded in March 2018. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov remarked in early May 2019 that Moscow and Tashkent were satisfied with the project’s progress and had recently reached agreement on a site. Uzatom published a press release later that month which indicated that a site near Lake Tuzkan in Jizzakh region had been selected as the “priority site.” Many media sources, both in English and Russian, have erroneously asserted that the NPP will be constructed in the Navoi Region. While several sites in Navoi made the short list and various figures suggested that the Navoi sites were the front-runners, the selection of the Jizzakh site as “priority site” suggests that the facility will not ultimately be built in Navoi.
Looking to the future, all signs suggest that the NPP project is moving forward in accordance with preliminary timetables or perhaps even ahead of schedule. On June 2, 2019, Medvedev said during a TV interview that the construction contract for Uzbek NPP is expected to be finalized by the end of this year. Speaking during Medvedev’s visit to Uzbekistan from May 29-30, 2019, Rosatom head Aleksei Likhachov added that licensing documentation will be finalized by the end of 2020, allowing the first batch of concrete to be poured during Winter 2020/2021.1
Aleksandr Lokshin, Rosatom’s First Deputy Director of Operations, had previously given an interview in late 2018 suggesting that construction was slated to begin in Winter 2021/2022. It remains unclear whether the responsible parties have adopted an accelerated timeline since Lokshin’s interview, although the removal of the article with Likhachov’s comments from the website of the original poster suggests that Likhachov could have made a mistake when speaking.
Overall, it seems clear that Rosatom will easily be able to start construction before the end of 2022, the first year of the construction period designated in the cooperation agreement of September 7, 2018. As Lokshin explains, “I personally do not have any concerns about observing this schedule, since we already have the proper experience. Additionally, we are going to build a serial project: we have a reference station [with substantively identical technical specifications] in Novovoronezh.”
1 Likhachov’s comments were cited in a news article from TASS, and though the original article has been removed from the TASS website, numerous articles on other sites contain quotes or excerpts from the original (eg, here).