IAEA helps Tajikistan remediation preparations

27 March 2017

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expert team is preparing independent cost estimates to help Tajikistan plan the remediation of uranium legacy sites in the north of the country.

Tailings pond at Degmay, Tajikistan (Image: M Roberts/IAEA)

The team from the IAEA's Coordination Group for Uranium Legacy Sites (CGULS) spent just under two weeks visiting legacy sites, including exposed tailings bodies and remnants of uranium mills and other infrastructure, at Map 1-9, Degmay (Digmai)  and Taboshar. The visit was supported by the Nuclear and Radiation Safety Agency of the Academy of Sciences of Tajikistan - the country's nuclear regulator - and site operator State Enterprise Tajredmet.

Tajikistan is implementing a work program to place an interim cover on open uranium tailings facilities in Degmay, to reduce dust hazards to the surrounding communities and the environment. The CGULS team is now preparing independent indicative cost estimates that will help the country plan for such remediation work.

Central Asia was an important uranium-producing region in the former Soviet Union, leading to a large accumulation of radioactive contaminated material at mines in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and in waste dumps and tailing sites. Uranium mining ceased in Tajikistan in 1992, and most of the other countries' mines had closed by 1995, but very little remediation of mines or tailings facilities was carried out.

The government of Tajikistan in 2014 resolved to rehabilitate legacy tailings by 2024. In 2015, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) at the request of the European Commission set up the Environmental Remediation Account for Central Asia to finance the remediation of sites in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan identified as "high priority". The European Commission provided an initial €8 million ($9 milliion) in funding. Earlier this year, the bank signed framework agreements with the Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, a precondition for the implementation of projects under the fund.

CGULS works in close cooperation with Central Asian states, Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, the European Commission and the EBRD. "Together, we are working to remediate and establish safe regulatory control of these sites, which are the legacy of uranium production activities carried out from the 1950s to the 1990s," IAEA waste safety specialist Michelle Roberts said.

Information collected from the visit, together with that from a similar visit to Kyrgyzstan in October last year, will support the development of a strategic plan for the remediation of uranium legacy sites in Central Asia. The plan will be used by the EBRD to secure pledges for the Environmental Remediation Account.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News