Uzbekistan is still considering the construction of a nuclear power plant and is also studying the achievements of small nuclear reactors in parallel. This was stated by Energy Minister Jurabek Mirzamakhmudov in an interview with Energy Intelligence.

He said that the Uzbek side continues talks with Russia’s Rosatom to build the nuclear power plant, but the work is advancing a little slower than expected.

“I would not say that there is no progress on this issue. The work continues within the framework of the intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the field of nuclear energy between Russia and Uzbekistan. Perhaps the work is progressing a little slower than we expected because we are looking at all aspects, coordinating and checking every detail, excluding possible risks. In parallel, we are now looking at the latest developments in small modular reactors, which are becoming very popular,” he said.

The minister stressed that the construction of a nuclear power plant is a very serious commitment for the state both financially and from other points of view.

“That is why we are now primarily focused on the accelerated development of renewable energy sources to eliminate the existing energy deficit. However, we are not taking the issue of building nuclear power plants off the agenda — we are studying technology, training personnel, negotiating with partners. We must eliminate any risks,” he said.

A small modular reactor is a contemporary nuclear reactor with a relatively small size that can be fabricated in a factory and then deployed and activated at any prepared site, or integrated into the existing infrastructure of thermal power plants by removing coal-fired boilers. Small reactors — in contrast to large classic reactors — have higher safety and do not necessitate strict safety measures, such as an evacuation zone around the plant.

Nuclear power plants in Uzbekistan

According to the Concept for the Development of Nuclear Power in Uzbekistan for 2019−2029, the construction of the NPP is expected to begin in 2022. The plant will be funded by the Uzbek state budget and a Russian state loan.

The project plans to build a nuclear power plant with water-water reactors of VVER-1200 type with a capacity of 1.2 GWh in Jizzakh region. The Russian state corporation Rosatom will be involved in its construction.

The first unit of the plant is expected to be operational in December 2028 and the second unit in June 2030, according to Uzatom General Director Jurabek Mirzamakhmudov.

Rosatom CEO Alexei Likhachev said in October 2019 that the corporation aimed to sign a main contract to build a nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan by the end of 2019. However, there has been no news of the signing of the document yet.

During a one-day visit to Russia by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on November 19, 2021, 18 documents were signed between the countries, including agreements between the governments on nuclear and biological safety cooperation.

In early November 2021, Abdulaziz Kamilov, who was then head of the Foreign Ministry, said that the issue of building a nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan was being examined both in terms of the economic viability of the project, given the numerous green energy investment proposals, and in terms of its transparency. He said that they would study the public’s attitude toward this issue, not only in Uzbekistan but also in neighbouring states.

Former Deputy Minister of Energy Sherzod Khodzhayev said in the summer of 2022 that Uzbekistan was negotiating with Rosatom on how to lower the cost of building a nuclear power plant. He said that if the price of electricity produced by the plant was not competitive with other sources, the decision as to whether to proceed with the project was “clear.”