Rosatom Looks to Promote Small-Scale Nuclear Power in Central Asia

@iStock

The Russian state corporation Rosatom is discussing the construction of small-capacity nuclear power plants (SCNPPs) with Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Myanmar and some island nations in East Asia, according to Rosatom’s general director Aleksey Likhachev. According to him, demand for small-scale nuclear plants is increasing globally, and, according to Rosatom analysis, in the next 10-15 years up to 30-40 GW of small-capacity reactors will be commissioned. The company is now discussing joint projects on SCNPP with Norilsk Nickel, Gazprom, Lukoil and Russian Platinum.

Last December Rosatom and the Mongolian company Mon-Atom signed a memorandum on the construction of a low-capacity nuclear power plant in Mongolia. In early 2023 the parties signed a memorandum on cooperation in the field of peaceful atomic use, and development of a project for the Center for Nuclear Science and Technology.

In Uzbekistan, the issue of joint construction of a nuclear plant with Russia has been under discussion since 2018. Under one agreement Rosatom will build two VVER-1200 units with a capacity of 1.2 GW each near Lake Tuzkan in the Jizzakh region. The nuclear plant’s potential to compensate for energy shortages and to decarbonize the country’s energy sector form a clear rationale for its construction. The project, which should take six years to build, is assessed as promising by both power engineers and environmentalists. Furthermore, considering that Uzbekistan is one of the world’s five biggest producers of uranium, it should always be able to fully supply its nuclear reactors with fuel.

Rosatom is proposing a “dry cooling tower” design for Uzbekistan — a technically more complicated option, but, given the growing water shortage in Central Asia, increasingly relevant.

South Korea’s Hyundai has also expressed interest in building SCNPPs in Uzbekistan. Hyundai is proposing its latest modular reactors based on integrated systems (SMART), where high-pressure water is used for cooling. Such reactors, despite their small size, are capable of generating up to 110 MW of energy, and their compactness and mobility allow them to be installed in the remote mountainous terrain of Central Asia.

In addition to Uzbekistan, Rosatom is considering building a nuclear power plant in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. Experts suggest installing two power units of 55 MW each. The corresponding memorandum was signed by Rosatom and Kyrgyzstan in January 2022 during the World Expo-2022 in the UAE. Experts believe that an SCNPP project could appear in Kyrgyzstan no earlier than 2028.