Contract for cleanup of Tajik uranium legacy site

07 September 2022

A contract has been signed for the environmental remediation of the former Taboshar uranium mining and processing site near the city of Istiklol in western Tajikistan. The work - to be carried out by specialists from Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom - is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

The Taboshar site in Tajikistan (Image: TVEL)

The contract was signed in Moscow by Tajikistan's Minister of Industry and New Technologies Sherali Kabir, Rosatom's Director for State Policy on Radioactive Waste, Spent Nuclear Fuel and Decommissioning of Nuclear and Radiation Hazardous Facilities Oleg Kryukov, and General Director of the Central Design and Technological Institute (JSC TISC) Mikhail Tarasov. JSC TISC - a subsidiary of Rosatom's TVEL nuclear fuel division - will be the direct executor of the project.

The agreement was concluded as part of the fulfillment of international obligations in accordance with the international target programme of the CIS countries for the rehabilitation of areas affected by uranium mining industries. The project is financed by the countries participating in the international target programme - Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The cost of all work under the contract is more than RUB700 million (USD11.4 million).

Within the framework of the contract, the dump of the low-grade uranium ore factory at the Taboshar industrial site and tailings I-IV will be reclaimed. The dump, with an area of 8 hectares, has not been reclaimed for more than 40 years after its formation. Currently, the dump height reaches up to 65 metres and it has a volume of about 1.12 million cubic metres. On the site there are tailings of the hydrometallurgical processing of uranium ores carried out in the 1970s.

TVEL said that during the implementation of the project, infrastructure and external power supply will be prepared, sections of the building on the site will be dismantled, and reclamation work will be carried out. A water disposal system will also be organised, and based on the results of the work, a monitoring system will be installed over the rehabilitated site.

Since 2021, TVEL has been the base organisation of the CIS Member States for the elimination of nuclear legacy, management of used nuclear fuel, radioactive waste and decommissioning of nuclear and radiation hazardous facilities.

"For TVEL, as the base organisation of the CIS, the signing of the contract for the Taboshar project is another important step in strengthening cooperation with the Commonwealth countries in the field of decommissioning and rehabilitation of territories," said Eduard Nikitin, director of decommissioning programs at TVEL. "The implementation of the project will ensure the environmental safety of the region without shifting the issues of the 'nuclear legacy' onto the shoulders of future generations."

Central Asia served as an important source of uranium for the former Soviet Union. Uranium was mined for over 50 years and uranium ore was also imported from other countries for processing, and large amounts of radioactively contaminated material were placed in mining waste dumps and tailing sites. Most of the mines were closed by 1995 but very little remediation was done before or after the closure of the mining and milling operations. The contaminated material is a threat to the environment and the health of the population. The hazards include the possible pollution of ground and surface water in a key agricultural centre of the region.

Some remediation of the most dangerous uranium legacy sites left by Soviet-era uranium production in Central Asia has already been carried out under the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's Environmental Remediation Account. The fund was established in 2015 at the initiative of the European Commission and became operational in 2016.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News