Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced this week that Central Asia’s largest country needs a nuclear power plant.
“I believe that the time has come to consider this issue in detail since Kazakhstan needs a nuclear power plant,” Tokayev said, speaking at the Eastern Economic Forum-2021 in Russia’s Vladivostok on Friday.
Earlier this week, President Tokayev ordered the government and Samruk Kazyna National Wealth Fund to comprehensively study the possibility of developing a nuclear power industry in Kazakhstan. According to the president, by 2030, Kazakhstan will face a power shortage.
According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), coal-fired power plants generate more than 70 percent of electricity in Kazakhstan. However, producing and using coal affects the environment.
Kazakhstan is a leading uranium producer, holding about 12 percent of the world’s recoverable uranium resources. But none of it has been used to generate electricity for decades. A single nuclear power reactor in Kazakhstan was launched in 1973 to produce electricity and desalinate water. Still, in 1999 the facility closed its doors after the Kazakhstani government joined the global nonproliferation regime.
Kazakhstanis have been discussing the construction of a nuclear power plant since 1997. Earlier this year, President Tokayev urged the energy officials not to shelve the issue.
“The entire developed world relies on nuclear power. Phobias are out of place here. However, it is necessary to carry out persistent explanatory activities among the people. We will not be rushing with the nuclear power plants construction, but we should not be late with this matter,” the president said on May 26.
Building nuclear power plants is not cheap, and some analysts say the cost for constructing just one unit could be approximately $5 billion. Additional costs will have to account for the storage and disposal of radioactive waste, as well as the subsequent dismantling of exhausted reactors decades later.
According to some reports, the nuclear power plant will be built in the village of Ulken in the Almaty region.
Neighboring Russia has long been offering to help Kazakhstan launch a nuclear power plant. In 2014, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding for constructing a reactor. In 2019, as part of his meeting with Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President Vladimir Putin said Russia was ready to build a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan using Russian technology.
Moscow can assist Nur-Sultan with the construction of the nuclear power plant due to Russia’s experience in nuclear engineering and its advanced nuclear technology.
Russia’s state-owned nuclear body, Rosatom, ranks third worldwide in terms of nuclear power generation. The energy giant is also the global leader in the simultaneous implementation of nuclear power plant units, holding the world’s largest portfolio of foreign construction projects.
According to the World Nuclear Association, Rosatom’s ten nuclear power plants operate 35 reactors totaling 26,983 megawatts (MW) of power and produce 18.7 percent of Russia’s total electricity.