Kazakhstan to choose nuclear plant contractor next year

Special correspondent of the "News" department

The government of Kazakhstan hasn’t decided yet what foreign company it will partner with in the construction of a nuclear power plant (NPP). The authorities are going to make this decision in January 2023, according to Aset Makhambetov, senior project manager from Kazakhstan Nuclear Power Plants LLP.

«There is no chance we choose a partner by the end of this year because we are still in negotiations with all of them. For instance, in September we had a big delegation from South Korea. Also, we had two delegations from China in October and November. We have thoroughly reviewed every detail of their technical and commercial proposal. Unfortunately, we physically need more time to make the final decision,» he said.

The official also noted that the government considers not only the technology but also other issues, including potential sources of funds for the project as well as conditions for such financing.

«Currently, we are discussing a set of issues with our partners, including technical and financial aspects. We want to know what solutions are preferable for them, and there is a considerable discussion that is ongoing right now,» Makhambetov added.

He refused to reveal any possible figures as the negotiations are still in place. «No specific figures so far. I hope we will have a better understanding of the financial sources for the project next year. Of course, apart from the safety issue, the financial issue is the most important,» he underlined.

Makhambetov doesn’t rule out that the future NPP will be powered by Kazakhstani-made nuclear fuel assemblies, which are ready-to-use fuel for any NPP. The company that produces this fuel is Ulba-TVS, which has two stakeholders: Kazakhstani Kazatomprom (51%) and Chinese CGNPC-URC (49%). The nuclear fuel manufacturing plant has a capacity of 200 tons per year. In December it shipped 30 tons of reactor fuel assembly to China.

Kazakhstan wants its future NPP to meet 3+ Technology that can provide a reactor with a high level of resilience during different types of failures and incidents. However, no official statement about what type of technology is going to be used for the NPP has been made so far. Kazakhstan has reviewed technical-commercial proposals from four foreign companies: EDF, CNNC, Rosatom and KHNP.

The Ministry of Energy estimates that the southern part of the country will need an additional 1,400 megawatts by 2028. As a result, the NPP might be built in the Ulken settlement in the Almaty region on the shore of Balkhash Lake.

In August, Vice Minister of Energy Zhandos Nurmagambetov revealed that the government is thinking about the second NPP that might be constructed in the town of Kurchatov. «The second NPP in Kazakhstan will likely be built on the bank of Irtysh River near Kurchatov,» he said.

In general, the energy ministry plans to build two NPPs with a combined capacity of 2.4 gigawatts by 2035. Each power unit of 1.2 gigawatts is going to cost about $5 billion and will take 10 years to construct.

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