Time to Opt for Atoms
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#270October 2023

Time to Opt for Atoms

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Kazakhstan will hold a referendum on building a nuclear power plant. Rosatom is among the four potential nuclear technology vendors considered by Astana. In late September, the Russian delegation took part in the INNOPROM.Kazakhstan International Industrial Exhibition.

Kazakhstan President Kasym-­Jomart Tokayev announced the plans to hold a referendum as part of his annual address at a joint session of the parliamentary chambers. “Building or refusing to build a nuclear power plant is a matter of paramount importance for the future of our country. This is why I propose to put it to a national referendum. We will decide on the exact timing later,” the president said. He emphasized that Kazakhstan as the world’s largest uranium producer needed to have its own nuclear generation capacity.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it was consulting the Kazakhstan authorities in connection with their plans to build a nuclear power plant.

Later in October, Astana said they suspended consultations with potential suppliers of nuclear technologies for the future nuclear power plant until the referendum was held. As noted by Kazakhstan Minister of Energy Almasadam Satkaliyev, the list of such suppliers includes France, Russia, Korea, and China. Earlier, the Ministry of Energy reported that the village of Ulken in the Zhambyl District of the Almaty Region had been selected as the most preferable construction site for the nuclear power plant based on the results of the studies.

According to experts, Kazakhstan needs nuclear as a source of baseload power. In an interview to Zakon.kz, Irina Tazhibayeva, Executive Director of the Research Center for Nuclear Technology Safety, noted that generation at solar and wind power plants was heavily dependent on weather conditions. Such plants also need storage capacity. By contrast, nuclear power plants operate 24/7 at any time of the year. “The president said in his address that power shortage will reach 14 GW by 2035. Renewable energy sources alone cannot provide the needed 14 GW. The country cannot do without baseload generation, such as thermal, nuclear and gas-fired power plants,” Irina Tazhibayeva explained.

“The referendum on the nuclear power plant, which the president proposed in his address, will be the fourth in the history of sovereign Kazakhstan and will play a momentous role in the future of the country,” economist Peter Svoik, PhD in Engineering, wrote in an article for the Vremya newspaper. The expert pointed out that the southern section of the national grid was already facing power shortages that would only grow in the future. “The Balkhash NPP will be providing 2.4 GW of electricity from 2035 at the earliest. More capacity will be needed then as urgently as possible,” Svoik explains.

Rosatom offers Kazakhstan the most advanced technology for the construction of nuclear power plants, Head of Rosatom Central Asia (part of Rosatom) Sergey Gromov says.

“Rosatom pays special attention to the Central Asian countries. As for Kazakhstan, we have been partners and friends for many years. Joining our efforts to build a nuclear power plant could become a driver of our strategic cooperation for decades to come,” Sputnik Kazakhstan quotes Sergey Gromov as saying.

In late September, Rosatom took part in the INNOPROM.Kazakhstan International Industrial Exhibition. The exhibition booth of the Russian nuclear corporation featured power engineering and medical solutions.

“Rosatom is known for its nuclear projects, but its business has long been not limited to nuclear power alone. We have many new business dimensions as our extensive research and production capabilities enable us to operate effectively in a variety of high-tech areas,” said Andrey Nikipelov, Rosatom’s Deputy Director General for Mechanical Engineering and Industrial Solutions. Much interest among the visitors to the exhibition was aroused by a model of a 2.5 MW wind power plant. Rosatom’s nine wind farms with a total capacity of 1 GW are already operating in Southern Russia. The most technically complex parts and components of wind turbines are manufactured at Rosatom’s production facility in Volgodonsk (Rostov Region).

As the Russian government delegation made its rounds of the exhibition, Minister of Industry and Trade of Russia Denis Manturov took interest in lithium-ion battery modules and multi-­purpose lithium-ion cells presented at Rosatom’s booth. Later, when speaking at the plenary session, he mentioned energy storage solutions among the three most promising commercial areas.

Visitors to the booth could also learn about Rosatom’s innovative medical product, a new Brachyum gamma therapy system designed for conservative cancer treatment. The system has already received positive feedback from hospitals in several Russian cities and can be used effectively in Kazakhstan as the country is considering the prospects of establishing a nuclear medicine center. The plans for the near future are to start selling the system abroad; an agreement has been signed to supply Brachyum to the Republic of Belarus.