Putin highlights readiness of Rosatom to build nuclear power station in Kazakhstan

Senior correspondent for General News department
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Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Rosatom, the nuclear company in Russia, is ready to build an advanced nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan that would meet all safety rules.

What happened? Short before his official visit to Astana President Putin shared his vision of Russo-Kazakhstani relations in an interview with the Kazakhstanskaya Pravda newspaper. In particular, he talked about the possible construction of a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan.

«As we all know, the government of Kazakhstan is weighing the possible construction of a nuclear power plant in its territory. If their decision is positive, the state corporation Rosatom is ready to prepare a necessary design based on advanced technologies that would meet high international standards in the sphere of environment protection and safety rules,» Putin said.

He also noted that the new nuclear power plant will increase the country’s energy security and boost its social and economic development.

What kind of technologies does Rosatom use? On September 26, Sergey Gromov, head of Rosatom Central Asia said that the corporation would offer Kazakhstan unique technologies.

«These are technologies 3+ for nuclear power plants. They are the safest and most advanced. Of course, we are taking into account what our Kazakhstani counterparts want and we are always ready to make the most beneficial and technologically advanced offer,» Gromov said.

The Russian corporation representative also noted that Rosatom had already held a set of negotiations with Kazakhstan and offered several options. However, Kazakhstan hasn’t made a final decision about the construction yet.

The context. Kazakhstan plans to build its first nuclear power plant in the Ulken settlement in the Almaty region on the coast of Balkhash Lake. Local residents have already supported that decision. Kazakhstan aims to ensure the high resilience of its first nuclear plant by adopting 3+ technology, which accounts for both foreseeable failures during the design stage and unpredictable incidents.

There are four potential suppliers of nuclear technologies: CNNC (China, HPR-1000 reactor), Rosatom (Russia, VVER-1200, VVER-1000 reactors), KHNP (South Korea, APR-1400 reactor) and EDF (France, EPR1200 reactor).

Several officials from the state-owned holding Samruk Kazyna highlighted the advantages of Rosatom, which is engaged in different nuclear projects throughout the world, as a potential partner of the project. For example, Nurlan Zhakupov, head of Samruk Kazyna, mentioned only Rosatom when he spoke about potential contractors. He also talked about the difficulties associated with the project.

Rosatom offers Kazakhstan its VVER-1200 and VVER-1000 reactors. Even though it is still not clear what is the final cost of the project the figure is gradually growing. Last year, the Ministry of Energy said that the first 2.4-gigawatt nuclear power plant would cost $10 billion. This preliminary figure was later raised to $11 billion and then to $15 billion.

On September 1, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said that the people of Kazakhstan should decide whether the country needs a nuclear power plant and that a nationwide referendum would be needed.

«In 2019, during the presidential election campaign, I promised that decisions on the most critical issues would be made through referendums. The construction of a nuclear plant is a very important issue that can affect the future of our country. This is why I suggest considering this issue in a nationwide referendum. Let’s set a timeline for this later,» Tokayev said during an address to the nation at a joint meeting of the two houses of the national parliament.

The government of Kazakhstan was expected to choose a foreign partner for the construction of the country’s first nuclear power plant by the end of last year; the deadline was then moved to early 2023, Asset Makhambetov, head of the Kazakhstan Nuclear Power Plants company, said in December 2022. Even though the government said it would choose a partner in the first half of the year, it hasn’t done so yet.

According to the official forecast by the Ministry of Energy, the country will face a shortage of 1,400 megawatts by 2028. The settlement of Ulken on the coast of Balkhash Lake is still the main spot for the station construction.

On August 3, 2022, Vice Minister of Energy Zhandos Nurmaganbetov, said that the country may start construction of the second nuclear station in the town of Kurchatov in the Western part of the country once the construction of the first power plant is started. At the time, he said that the government was still thinking about how many nuclear power plants must be built in Kazakhstan.

The ministry plans to build nuclear facilities with a capacity of at least 2.4 gigawatts. Each 1.2-gigawatt reactor was estimated last year at $5 billion. Given that the construction of the nuclear power plant will take ten years, the government has to start within two years to meet the deadline.

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