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Can nuclear safety protocols be maintained in a poor country like Kyrgyzstan, where corruption is rampant?

The looming fight over nuclear power in Kyrgyzstan, eurasianet Aiday Erkebaeva Jan 4, 2023

On the electricity front, Kyrgyzstan may be reaching the end of the line. Demand is growing relentlessly, and yet the hydropower resources it has relied on historically are yielding diminishing returns.

Burning coal is pushing the country deeper into an ecological crisis, as attested to by the black blanket of smog that suffocates the capital, Bishkek, every winter. 

With those considerations in mind, thoughts have focused ever more on pursuing a nuclear exit. 

An important stride in that direction was taken at the ATOMEXPO-2022 international forum in the southern Russian city of Sochi, where representatives from the Kyrgyz Energy Ministry agreed for Russia’s Rosatom to conduct a feasibility study on installing a small nuclear reactor in Kyrgyzstan.  

What backers of this idea have in mind is a plant powered by a compact nuclear reactor known as RITM-200N. This type of reactor is used at present on three Project 22220-class icebreakers developed by the St. Petersburg-based Baltic Shipyard.

Installation of such a reactor in Kyrgyzstan could happen no earlier than 2028, according to Russian media reports, but Kyrgyz Energy Minister Taalaibek Ibrayev is already speaking optimistically of the prospect. ……….

One reason that a RITM-200N reactor is highly unlikely to appear in Kyrgyzstan before 2028 is that Rosatom, whose subsidiary builds the reactors, operates on the policy that it will not install technology abroad that it has not already implemented in Russia itself. The first onshore installation of a RITM-200N-powered plant is happening at the Kyuchus gold deposit in Yakutia, and completion of that project is not expected for another five years.

It is just as well there is no rush, because finding a suitable site could prove challenging. As energy expert Boris Martsinkevich told Eurasianet, the location must hit the sweet spot: far away from potential areas of heightened seismic activity, but close enough to centers of major electricity consumption, so that the cost of installing new power lines does not make the whole project financially unsustainable. …………………

Stiff opposition is looming

A Bishkek-based environmental group called the Green Alliance laid out its objections in a statement in December. The organization is unmoved by the fact that RITM-200N would be a relatively small reactor.

“It is well known that even small sources of atomic energy and small amounts of radioactive substances can have a negative impact on both the environment and human health,” the alliance said in its statement

In making its case, the Green Alliance borrowed from an argument made by opponents of a RITM-200N plant project in Yakutia, in Russia. Activists there cited the experience of the Bilibino nuclear power station, a small Soviet-vintage plant in a remote northeastern corner of Russia that is said to have been plagued by emergency shutdowns, questions over the nebulous disposal of spent nuclear fuel, and lack of profitability. 

That last point about profitability is one that causes particular concern, since the worry is that cost-cutting could lead to skimping on safety protocols. Where nuclear power is concerned, the stakes are particularly high. 

Green activists suggest instead that more emphasis be placed on exploiting Kyrgyzstan’s hydropower potential to its fullest, and that the authorities also tap into the potential of solar, wind and biomass energy. Even government officials have conceded that much more could be squeezed out of hydropower. …………………………………………

One more elephant in the room is corruption – a problem that no Kyrgyz government has to date been successful in tackling.  

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Kazakh service, Radio Azattyq, environmentalist Dmitry Kalmykov said that graft constituted one of the main arguments against Central Asian countries embracing nuclear power. 

“If there is a high level of corruption in the country, if we constantly have high-ranking officials arrested, as a member of the public, I am going to think to myself: ‘They will build an atomic power plant, and when there is some technical inspection, again there will be corruption,’” Kalmykov told Azattyq last year.


January 4, 2023 Posted by | Kyrgyzstan, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Putin: Nuclear risk is rising, but we are not mad

By Alys Davies, 7 Dec 22, BBC News

Vladimir Putin has said the threat of a nuclear war was rising, but insisted Russia had not “gone mad” and would not use its nuclear weapons first.

The Russian president insisted that his country would only use weapons of mass destruction in response to an attack.

Speaking at Russia’s annual human rights council meeting, he also said the war in Ukraine could be a “lengthy process”.

Western officials believe Putin initially planned for a rapid victory.

Russia’s capacity to use nuclear weapons has come under increased scrutiny since it invaded Ukraine in February.

“Such a threat is growing, it would be wrong to hide it,” Putin warned while talking about the prospect of nuclear war via video link from Moscow.

But he asserted that Russia would “under no circumstances” use the weapons first, and would not threaten anyone with its nuclear arsenal.

“We have not gone mad, we are aware of what nuclear weapons are,” he said, adding: “We aren’t about to run around the world brandishing this weapon like a razor.”

Putin also boasted that Russia had the most modern and advanced nuclear weapons in the world, and contrasted its nuclear strategy to the US – who he said had gone further than Russia by locating its nuclear weapons on other territories.

“We do not have nuclear weapons, including tactical ones, on the territory of other countries, but the Americans do – in Turkey, and in a number of other European countries,” he said………………………………………

December 7, 2022 Posted by | Kyrgyzstan, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Ready at last for cleaning up Kyrgyzstan’s old uranium sites

Kyrgyzstan one step closer to remediation of uranium legacy sites, 18 August 2017BISHKEK (TCA) — The EU welcomes the swift ratification by Kyrgyzstan of an agreement that allows environmental remediation in a number of uranium legacy sites in the country to go ahead, the Delegation of the European Union to the Kyrgyz Republic said on August 18.

All the basic conditions are now in place to start actual remediation work. Support has been provided to the Kyrgyz Government on the matter as part of the EU’s environmental strategy for Central Asia. The importance of these initiatives was once more confirmed in June when the EU discussed the overall progress of this environmental strategy.

The areas concerned are the uranium legacy sites of Min-Kush, Shekaftar and Mailuu-Suu. The EU has funded technical studies and environmental impact assessment. These studies allow remediation work to first start in Min-Kush and Shekaftar.

It is now clear what needs to be done to improve the living conditions in the areas. Remediation work will be implemented through the EBRD managed multilateral Environmental Remediation Account for Central Asia (ERA). The EU is currently the only contributor to the ERA fund with an initial contribution of €16.5 million.

The preparatory work done so far is also supported by a Strategic Master Plan for Environmental Remediation of Uranium Legacy Sites in Central Asia. This plan was prepared under the leadership of the IAEA and it has further strengthened the technical basis on which the activities are to be done.

As a next step, the Kyrgyz Government is asked to set up the necessary structures to manage the projects. Technical assistance will be provided.

The Strategic Master Plan will be signed in September during the IAEA’s General Conference. At the same time in New York a special event will take place to further explain and discuss the progress made following a UN resolution of 2013 calling for international support to mitigate the risks in Central Asia as a result of the uranium legacy.

August 19, 2017 Posted by | environment, Kyrgyzstan | Leave a comment

Danger of Kyrgyzstan’s uranium-polluted rivers extends way beyond national borders

the more we delay the process of lands reclamation and conservation, the more risk of trans-border catastrophe we have

 the country has 92 tailing dumps with the total volume of 254.4 million cubic meters (457 billion tons) of mining wastes.

Kyrgyzstan’s uranium-polluted rivers threaten Central Asia , 30.10.2012, Pollution of Kyrgyzstan’s water resources with the wastes of uranium tailing dumps poses a threat to the whole Central Asian region, KazTAG reports.

“Regional risks of degradation and destruction of the uranium tailing dumps are related to a whole range of factors, especially since many of the dumps are located very close to water resources. Since they are located at the river heads (of the rivers that start in Kyrgyzstan),
the potential catastrophe may cause major mass and ecological disasters and have a long-term effect on health of millions of people in the lower reaches of the rivers,” first Vice-PM of Kyrgyzstan Dzhoomart Otorbayev said at the international conference called
Uranium tailing dumps in Central Asia: Join Efforts on Lowering Risks on Wednesday, October 24. Continue reading

November 12, 2012 Posted by | Kyrgyzstan, Uranium, wastes | Leave a comment

KYRGYZSTAN highly polluted by uranium tailings

KYRGYZSTAN: Mailuu-Suu ranked third in the list of world’s worst polluted places URANIUM TAILINGS 8 Dec 09  URANIUM.KG Mailuu-Suu in Kyrgyzstan ranked third in the list of the world’s worst polluted places according to the report issued by the New-York-based of Blacksmith Institute for 2009.This list, which is compiled annually, is formed from 1100 geographical spots, where state of environment causes serious concern Continue reading

December 15, 2009 Posted by | environment, Kyrgyzstan | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kyrgyzstan suffering from uranium tailings pollution

Kyrgyzstan makes progress on toxic dumps but needs to do much more – UN expert  Web Newswire October 12, 2009

Kyrgyzstan has made progress in addressing the significant problems of radioactive and toxic waste dumps and in raising international awareness of the serious trans-boundary threats of contamination of groundwater and rivers, but much more remains to be done, a United Nations expert reported today. Continue reading

October 11, 2009 Posted by | 1, Kyrgyzstan, wastes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Radioactive uranium tailings problems in Central Asia

PM: We expect prompt decisions on Kyrgyz uranium tailings from our foreign partners 28/09-2009 Bishkek – News Agency “”, By Daniyar KARIMOV
“We expect prompt decisions on uranium tailings’ problem in Kyrgyzstan from our foreign partners and international organizations,” Continue reading

September 29, 2009 Posted by | 1, Kyrgyzstan, wastes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kyrgyzstan: Soviet-Era Boom Town – radioactive pollution


EURASIANET David Trilling 9/22/09

“…………The town Min Kush bore another, more troubled, legacy: it was one of the Soviet Union’s leading sources of uranium. Continue reading

September 23, 2009 Posted by | 1, environment, Kyrgyzstan | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kyrgyzstan: Radioactive Legacy Vexes Bishkek

Friday, May 29,  KYRGYZSTAN: RADIOACTIVE LEGACY VEXES BISHKEK David Trilling 5/27/09 – “…………………..In March 2008, officials from Kyrgyzstan’s Emergencies Ministry began moving radioactive uranium waste from Soviet-era dumps — located in poorly fortified ravines and along riverbeds downstream — into the hills just above his home. “It gives us headaches; our eyes itch,” Toko says as he gestures across the road. Now he grows his fruits and vegetables in water potentially contaminated by the radioactive materials.

A few kilometers downstream from Toko’s house there are even more lethal radioactive deposits — known as tailings. They line the river and surround the former industrial town of Mailuu Suu, now home to acres of derelict factory buildings. Not too long ago, the area was a desirable place to live. ………………………….as much as 10,000 tons of yellowcake (U3O8), a refined form of uranium that can be used either to produce nuclear energy or atomic weapons, was produced in Mailuu Suu for Soviet weapons programs. The first Soviet atomic weapon was made from uranium mined at Mailuu Suu, say officials at Kyrgyzstan’s National Academy of Science. Communist central planners tended to care about results, not the potential consequences of their decisions. Thus little thought was given to the disposal of radioactive waste. Approximately 2 million cubic meters of uranium tailings were buried in the area, according to Kyrgyz government statistics. It is the largest such site in the country. In addition to the 23 tailings dumps, workers sprinkled almost a million cubic meters of uranium waste rock atop 13 dumps nearby, on land still exposed to the rain and annual mudslides.

Many of the tailing sites and waste rock dumps are now poorly marked. Sheep graze on them. Water drains through the radioactive material and downstream into Uzbekistan and the Syr Darya, which winds its way through Central Asia’s most densely populated areas.

Mailuu Suu residents complain of goiter, anemia, cancer and early death. Radiation in some areas is 30 times normal levels. Former Mailuu Suu mayor Bumairam Mamaseitova, currently an MP in Bishkek with the opposition Communist Party, says rates of cancer in Mailuu Suu are the highest in Kyrgyzstan. “All of the diseases are related to those uranium tailings in the area.” For her, it is a personal issue. “This issue of uranium tailings worries me a lot because my father died when he was only 52 years old. He used to work in the uranium mines. I was born and have lived in Mailuu Suu. Most of my relatives died in their 50s.”

Dumps there are thought to be the most dangerous in Kyrgyzstan, due to the valley’s higher-than-avera

EurasiaNet Civil Society – Kyrgyzstan: Radioactive Legacy Vexes Bishkek

May 29, 2009 Posted by | Kyrgyzstan, wastes | , , , , | Leave a comment