Kazakhstan mulls construction of two nuclear plants

26 January 2015

Kazakh energy minister Vladimir Shkolnik said today the government is considering construction of two nuclear power plants in the country.

Kazakhstan currently has no nuclear power generation capacity, as the Aktau nuclear reactor, the country's only nuclear power plant, was shut down in June 1999.

One of the new plants would be built near the town of Kurchatov and is "likely to be Russian-made", Shkolnik told local media following a parliamentary meeting to discuss electricity policy.

Kurchatov is a town in East Kazakhstan Province in northeast Kazakhstan. Named after Soviet nuclear physicist Igor Kurchatov, the town was once the centre of operations for the adjoining Semipalatinsk Test Site.

An intergovernmental agreement signed by Russia and Kazakhstan in September 2014 is currently "being coordinated", he added. "There are a number of financial problems, approaches and discrepancies in the legislation, and now a revision is underway," Shkolnik said.

The potential site of a second plant is Balkash and "one of the most promising" reactor designs under review is by Westinghouse, Shkolnik said, without elaborating. He noted that KazAtomProm - the Kazakh state-owned uranium producer - is a shareholder in Westinghouse. Japan's Toshiba sold 10% of its majority share in Westinghouse to KazAtomProm in 2007. Balkash is located on the northern shore of Lake Balkash, in the south of Kazakhstan.

The cost of a nuclear reactor will be between $3 billion and $4 billion, he said.

Any decision to build a second nuclear power plant will depend on Kazakhstan's electricity needs but also on the possibility of power exports after 2019, when a single energy market within the Eurasian Economic Community (EAEC) is expected to have been created, he said. The EAEC, which originated from the Commonwealth of Independent States on 29 March 1996, was terminated from 1 January 2015 and effectively replaced with the launch of the Eurasian Economic Union.

In a statement today, the energy ministry said that last year Kazakhstan imported 644 GWh and exported 2.9 TWh of electricity. Power production increased by 2.1% to 93.9 TWh, while demand stood at 91.6 TWh. Coal accounted for 73% of power generation, while gas, wind, renewable energy, including small hydro power, covered 18%, 8% and 0.6%, respectively. Kazakhstan plans to increase the share of electricity it produces from renewable sources to 3% in 2020, 10% in 2030 and 50% in 2050.

A new draft law on the use of atomic energy in Kazakhstan was presented on 15 January to the country's lower house of parliament, the Majilis. The draft aims to update an existing law adopted 15 years ago, during which time Kazakhstan has joined a number of international conventions in the nuclear sector, accumulated significant changes to its national legislation and identified gaps in the regulation of safety in the use of nuclear energy.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News