Uzbekistan Nuclear Power Plant
Uzbekistan began preliminary work on its first nuclear power plant on Friday, October 19th when Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Russian President Vladimir Putin pressed a symbolic button to signal the start of geological surveying to find a suitable location for the plant.
Russia is heavily involved in the powerplant’s construction. The project is expected to cost roughly $11 billion, financed mostly by a soft loan from Russia, and will be constructed primarily by Rosatom. Their proposal is to build two 1,200 megawatt blocs, similar to structures built in Belarus and Bangladesh. Those two projects both used Voda Voda Energo Reactors (VVER) reactors, which are water-cooled, water-moderated reactors. Construction has been given a long timeline; they do not plan to start pouring concrete until 2020, and the plant will likely not begin producing power until 2028.
Belarus may also participate in the project. Deputy Director of the Nuclear Energy Department of the Belarusian Energy Ministry Lilian Dulinets has stated that Uzbekistan and Belarus are “virtually ready” to sign a memorandum of understanding on nuclear power. An Uzbek delegation traveled to Belarus in early July to visit a power plant Rosatom had constructed there.
Currently, Uzbekistan’s annual electricity needs total approximately 69 billion kilowatt hours. This demand is 85% met by gas and coal, while the remainder comes from hydropower. However, Uzbekistan’s gas reserves are only projected to last another 30-35 years at current rates of consumption, and Uzbekistan wants to use more of those resources for chemical production or export. The power plant will reportedly save the country approximately 3.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year, which Jurabek Mirzamahmudov, head of Uzbekistan’s nuclear energy agency, called “feedstock for one petrochemicals plant which could produce half a million tons of polymers.”
Plans to build a nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan have reportedly existed for some time, but were given a more decisive push by President Mirziyoyev as part of his wide-ranging reforms meant to rejuvenate the country’s economy. Rosatom readily agreed to the proposal but will likely take a long time to fully engage in the project given that it has existing commitments to build forty-two nuclear reactors in twelve countries.