Nuclear power plans for Kazakhstan firm up

22 November 2007

Two small nuclear power reactors will operate in Kazakhstan from 2015, according to a government decision. The first-of-a-kind VBER-300 units will likely be sited at Aktau on the Caspian Sea.

VBER reactors are already used to power Russian naval vessels and so are well proven. However, the design of the land-based electricity-producing version is not yet fully complete. A 50-50 joint venture between KazAtomProm and AtomStroyExport called Atomniye Stantsii is to complete the design before building and operating the first two units from 2015 and 2016. Beyond that, the founding firms hope to sell the design abroad.

It is widely thought that nuclear power plants of about 300 MWe would be much more attractive to developing countries or those with smaller grids than units of 1000 MWe and above popular in more established nuclear markets.

Kazakh prime minister Karim Masimov announced the government decision to go ahead on 21 November, saying that the decision had been taken and, given 'timely finance', would proceed. He did not elaborate on where the finance would come from.

The Mangistau region, which borders the Caspian Sea, was named for the new plant due to its surging demand for electricity. The region has formerly hosted a BN-350 fast-breeder reactor at Aktau, which operated between 1972 and 1999. That reactor provided 350 MW of thermal power, 150 MW of which was used to desalinate water. The remainder was used to generate electricity, resulting in a supply of about 135 MWe. There has been no mention of the VBER units being used in this way, although the Aktau site would be their most likely home.

Further information

WNA's Uranium and Nuclear Power in Kazakhstan information paper
WNA's Small Nuclear Power Reactors information paper


WNN: Kazakhstan plans to expand uranium production and supply