Kazakhstan seeks to develop nuclear energy

Kazakhstan, ranked first in the world in terms of uranium reserves, is now undertaking  a transition to nuclear power.  Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom and Kazakhstan´s Energy Ministry are on the move to sign an intergovernmental agreement on constructing nuclear plant in Kazakhstan. Drop in oil prices, energy and environmental reasoning are believed to be pushing Kazakhstan to the long-sought goal whose  largest hydropower plants are currently functioning with coal consumption. Moscow and Astana signed a memorandum on cooperation on nuclear plant construction in Kurchatov back in May 2014. The Russian company Rosatom International Network who claims to have the most advanced and secure technologies recently opened its office in Astana to cover the preliminary preparations.  But the project is expected to take 100 years according to specialists, with 6-7 years of preparatory works for documentation, construction and seismology, 60 years of guaranteed operation and the rest for life extension and decommissioning.

Kazakhstan’s plans over the construction were already announced in 1998, but the Kazakh people perceived the idea with skepticism particularly after the negative effect of the testing activities further aided with seismogenic character of the selected area. On the other hand, the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine added fuel to the fire. But in 2006, Kazakhstan renewed attempts for the construction by adopting the resolution and undertaking new feasibility studies. Considering that Kazakhstan has been the leading global producer of uranium since 2009 and increased its production output almost sixfold, nuclear energy is becoming particularly attractive.

On the other hand, as Iranian sources recently reported  Astana and Tehran also plan to cooperate in nuclear field. During his visit in Tehran, Kazakhstan´s deputy Foreign Minister Rapil Zhoshybayev spoke about potential nuclear cooperation with Iran to construct two nuclear power plants. Iran is also invited to the upcoming “Astana Expo: Future Energy” to be held in Astana in 2017. Astana was chosen to host the Expo-2017 (with focus on future energy) by the International Exhibitions Bureau back in 2012 and more than 45 country representatives are expected to attend. At the same time, Kazakhstan is considered as a potential receiver of Iranian nuclear fuel stockpile. Kazakhstan seems like a good candidate as it enjoys close ties with Washington and the UN nuclear watchdog and already hosted two rounds of Iranian nuclear negotiations in 2013. Delivering nuclear material to Kazakhstan eases control of the stockpile as Astana’s nuclear program is also under IAEA oversight controlling that the material is not converted back to Iran.

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