On 19 July 2018, by the Decree of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, On Measures for the Development of Nuclear Energy in the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Agency for the Development of Nuclear Energy (Uzatom Agency) was created, charged with the development and implementation of a unified government policy and strategic directions in the field of nuclear energy. Its activities are:
- Preparation of proposals on priority areas of government policy in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy, including the development of legal instruments;
- Development and implementation of government programmes for the development of nuclear energy in the Republic of Uzbekistan, attracting investments, including foreign investments, for the implementation of projects in the field of nuclear energy;
- Reaching agreements and contracts for the design, construction and operation of nuclear power facilities with the introduction of modern technologies and equipment that meet international requirements for industrial and environmental safety;
- Preparation and implementation of comprehensive measures for the development of nuclear science and nuclear technologies, projects of fundamental research, research and development, design and innovation, introduction of advanced technologies;
- Ensuring the development and safe operation of research and nuclear power reactors, nuclear-physical units, storage facilities for nuclear materials and radiation sources, and disposal of radioactive waste;
- Improvement of the system of radiation control and nuclear safety in state facilities with the development of measures for the prevention of nuclear accidents and radiation emergencies in cooperation with other ministries and departments;
- Ensuring non-proliferation of nuclear materials and technologies, radioactive materials, implementation of measures for physical protection and ensuring nuclear and radiation safety;
- Organising training, retraining and advanced training of personnel, including at leading international institutions;
- Implementation of international cooperation and interaction with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the European Atomic Energy Community and other international organisations;
- Development of cooperation with international financial institutions, donor countries, companies and banks in order to attract foreign investments and advanced technologies in the field of nuclear energy together with interested ministries and departments.
Currently, more than 80 highly qualified specialists, including international specialists, work with the Uzatom Agency. In order to implement the project for the construction of the NPP in the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Uzatom Agency has formed a Directorate for NPP construction, which is the sole contractor for the facility’s construction. It will be later transformed into an operating organisation for nuclear power facilities of the country. In addition, UJV REZ (Czech Republic) and White & Case (Great Britain), world-famous companies with experience and relevant qualifications in the construction of nuclear power plants of Russian design, were engaged to conduct independent pricing, technical and legal reviews for the project.
The Uzatom Agency has already carried out large-scale work in the field of nuclear energy development in Uzbekistan.
On 7 September 2018 in Moscow an agreement between the Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Government of the Russian Federation on cooperation in construction of a nuclear power plant was signed. The planned output is 2,400 MW of generation "3+" with two power units based on water-cooled VVER-1200 power reactors.
When selecting a partner for the development of such a high-tech industry, Uzbekistan selected the Rosatom State Corporation, taking into account its long-term experience and world leadership in the field of nuclear energy.
Today, 36 power units are being built using Russian technologies in 12 countries – a record in the global industry for the number of nuclear power units being built overseas.
Rosatom State Corporation is the only company in the world that offers a modern evolution project of VVER (water-water power reactor) technology of the "3+" generation that meets modern international requirements and recommendations of the IAEA. Uzbekistan opted for the NPP with a water-cooled VVER-1200 power reactor design of Atomenergoproekt JSC (Novovoronezh NPP-2) as a reference for NPP construction in the Republic of Uzbekistan. The Novovoronezh NPP-2 project has been developed and tested to the greatest extent for regions with high seismicity and a hot climate, which is confirmed by construction licenses from national regulators in Iran, Turkey, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
Currently, specialists of the Uzatom Agency and Rosatom State Corporation are conducting negotiations on the main contracts for the construction of a nuclear power plant, which are scheduled to be signed at the end of 2019. Also, in order to finance the contract for the NPP construction, the Ministries of Finance of Uzbekistan and Russia are preparing an agreement between the Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Government of the Russian Federation on issuing a government loan from the Russian Federation for the construction of the nuclear power plant, the signing of which is
In order to determine the site of the nuclear power plant, a special working group formed by the Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which included specialists from key ministries and departments, research and design organizations, based on archival data and real geographical, geological, and socio-economic data, identified 10 proposed locations for the nuclear power plant. Based on the conclusion of the working group, the Government decided to conduct all types of engineering surveys (geological, hydrological, meteorological, environmental, seismological, radiological, etc.) at four potential sites for Tudakul in Navoi Region and three potential sites at Aidarkul in the Jizzakh Region.
On 7 May 2019 the Republic’s Working Commission headed by the Prime Minister of Uzbekistan jointly with the Scientific-Technical and Expert Council of the Uzatom Agency, having reviewed the reports of the management of the State Committee of Geology and Uzgashkliti SUE, which conducted the above mentioned engineering surveys, decided on the choice of site No. 1 as a priority. The site is near lake Tuzkan in the Aydar-Arnasay lakes system. There are no prohibiting and adverse factors and it fully complies with international requirements and IAEA recommendations.
In order to finalize the site selection and authorisation by the regulatory body responsible for nuclear and radiation safety, the State Committee for Industrial Safety, signed a contract on 17 May 2019 with the Directorate for NPP construction under the Uzatom Agency and the Engineering division of Rosatom State Corporation and Atomstroyexport JSC, to carry out the engineering survey to develop the design of the nuclear power plant. Work on the priority site in the Jizzakh Region has already begun. Also, according to international practice in the field of construction of nuclear power facilities, work is being done in parallel to prepare an environmental impact assessment, which will be submitted for public hearings both in Uzbekistan and in bordering countries.
The construction of a nuclear power plant is always accompanied by the creation of an appropriate nuclear infrastructure, which, according to the IAEA guidance documents, includes 19 elements, such as improving legislation and developing the regulatory framework, staff training, financing, regulation, interaction with stakeholders, development of electrical grids, management of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste, etc. In this regard, the Uzatom Agency has completed a lot of work.
The Uzatom Agency has prepared more than 20 draft decisions adopted by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Cabinet of Ministers, on the basis of which the strategy for the development of nuclear energy in the country has been built.
Thus, in accordance with a Resolution of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan of 7 February 2019 (No. PP–4165, Concept for the development of nuclear energy in the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2019-2029) and the "Road Map" for its implementation were approved. By the end of October 2019, the Government Programme for the development of nuclear energy in the Republic of Uzbekistan will be developed and submitted for approval in accordance with the developed Concept.
In order to create a legal framework for the use of nuclear energy, a Bill of the Republic of Uzbekistan On the Use of Nuclear Energy for Peaceful Purposes was developed and adopted at the second and third readings by the Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis on July 10, 2019. It should be noted that the Bill was adopted taking into account the recommendations of the IAEA, Rosatom, Rostekhnadzor, Worley Parsons consultants and other independent international experts in this field.
At present, the relevant legal instruments are also being prepared for accession to the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, the Convention on Nuclear Safety, and the Convention on Assistance in the Event of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency.
In accordance with the IAEA recommendations and the intergovernmental Agreement between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Russian Federation on cooperation in the construction of nuclear power plant, the Decision of the Cabinet of Ministers permitted the use of Russian norms and regulations in the field of nuclear energy during the implementation of the project for the construction of nuclear power plant.
Training of a national workforce in the field of nuclear energy and nuclear technologies is important in the implementation of such a large-scale project. In this regard, since 2018, 56 students from Uzbekistan have been studying at the National Research Nuclear University "Moscow Engineering and Physics Institute" (NRNU MEPHI) under the quotas of Rosatom State Corporation and the NRNU MEPHI. At the same time, the government gives so much attention to this matter that the day following the establishment of Uzatom Agency, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan decided to establish a branch of the NRNU MEPHI in Tashkent. Currently, large-scale construction and installation works are underway in an allocated building at the Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan to accommodate the Tashkent branch of the NRNU MEPHI with the most modern laboratory and educational equipment.
It should be noted that in the branch the studies will follow the Russian curriculum and standards. On 12 July 2019, the results of the entrance exams were announced, according to which 100 students were admitted to the branch on the basis of a government grant which will allow students to fully concentrate on their studies and not to think about paying for tuition fees.
In addition, for timely and quality preparation of experts for the nuclear sector, on 19 October 2018 the Memorandum between the Uzatom Agency, the Academy of Sciences and Rosatom State Corporation on cooperation in training personnel for the nuclear industry of the Republic of Uzbekistan was signed, and on 16 April 2019 an Agreement of Intent between the Uzatom Agency and the Technical Academy of Rosatom was signed for the development of the above Memorandum related to personnel. Based on these documents, specialists of the Uzatom Agency, the State Committee for Industrial Safety and the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan are enrolled on short- and medium-term refresher courses and practical study courses in the field of nuclear energy and nuclear technologies.
Uzbekistan is not limited to cooperation with Russia in training personnel for the national nuclear industry. Currently, there are Memoranda of Cooperation in the field of training with Belarus, India, the World Nuclear University under the World Nuclear Association (WNA) and other foreign organisations. Such a project cannot be implemented without the cooperation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the international community.
Uzbekistan became a member state of the IAEA in 1994. Currently, cooperation with the IAEA is actively underway on projects within the framework of technical assistance:
- Improving the radiation safety of oncological centres in the country; purchasing high-tech scientific medical equipment and training personnel in the field of radiation medicine;
- Training of personnel on new methods in the laboratories of nuclear physics of the National University of Uzbekistan and Samarkand State University;
- Modernisation and strengthening of radiation and nuclear safety of the only research nuclear reactor of the Institute of Nuclear Physics under the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan;
- Return of used highly enriched nuclear fuel to the country of origin (the Russian Federation); and
- Decommissioning of the entire site of the research nuclear reactor of Photon JSC of Uzeltekhsanoat, etc.
Uzbekistan considers technical cooperation within the framework of the IAEA as an essential tool for the transfer and implementation of advanced ideas, technologies and experience in the nuclear field. Like many other IAEA member states, for Uzbekistan technical cooperation is a great help in a number of areas related to the application of nuclear knowledge and technology.
On 17 September 2018, at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna,Austria, a delegation of the Republic of Uzbekistan consisting of the Uzatom Agency, the Academy of Sciences and the State Committee for Industrial Safety announced during the 62nd General Conference of the IAEA its intention to create and develop a national nuclear energy programme.
The initiative was very well received by the IAEA and the international community.
Thus, since 2018 to this day, IAEA experts have visited the Republic of Uzbekistan four times and conducted workshops for Uzbek specialists on the development of the national nuclear energy programme. In addition, based on the recommendations of IAEA experts, Uzbekistan has already requested the IAEA to conduct a SEED mission to assess the safety of the nuclear power plant site and an INIR mission to assess the nuclear infrastructure in 2020.
It should be noted that the intensification of bilateral contacts between Uzbekistan and the IAEA has had a positive impact on the international image of Uzbekistan. Subsequently, by a separate Decision of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, a new Council for Interaction with the IAEA was introduced at the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Austria.
Now there is an agreement with the IAEA to hold a joint workshop in October this year in Tashkent on preparing for IAEA missions and the methodology for self-assessment of nuclear infrastructure. A visit by the Deputy Director General of the IAEA, Mikhail Chudakov, to Uzbekistan in August to organise high-level meetings is also being considered.
The Uzatom Agency is paying special attention to the issues of public acceptance of the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
On 19 October 2018, the Uzatom Agency and Rosatom State Corporation signed a Memorandum of Cooperation for the formation of positive public opinion on the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. As follow-up to this Memorandum, communication plans in this direction were signed in 2018 and 2019. In accordance with the communication plans, familiarisation and media tours of deputies of the Legislative chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan and representatives of the national media to the existing Tokai NPP (Japan), Novovoronezh NPP-2 (Russia), and Paks-1 NPP (Hungary) were organised.
In addition, on 15 May this year, the first Information Centre for Nuclear Technologies in Uzbekistan was inaugurated at the offices of the Uzatom Agency. This Information Centre has already held meetings and discussions with more than 1,000 people, including deputies of the Legislative chamber of the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Environmental Party of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Environmental Movement, media representatives, schoolchildren and students of academic lyceums and vocational colleges.
The systematic work carried out by the Uzatom Agency will ensure that the project is implemented within the established time frame in compliance with all safety and quality standards and requirements. Thanks to the efforts of the leadership of the country, the Government of the Republic and the specialists of Uzatom Agency in Uzbekistan, a cheaper source of electricity will appear that will promote growth of the economy and welfare of the people.