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Kazakhstan eyes construction of new nuclear plants

Construction of plants under discussion by senior government officials

Kazakhstan is eyeing the construction of two nuclear powerplants. Image for illustration only.
Kazakhstan is eyeing the construction of two nuclear powerplants. Image for illustration only.

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Kazakh energy minister Vladimir Shkolnik has said that the country is looking to build two new nuclear power plants to meet demand placed on its current network infrastructure.

The country’s only nuclear plant was shut down in 1999 and it now relies on importing power from neighbouring countries to supplement its own power generation capabilities.

The government has two sites in mind: One of the new plants would be built near the town of Kurchatov and is "likely to be Russian-made", Shkolnik told local media following a parliamentary meeting. Fittingly, the town is named after Soviet nuclear physicist Igor Kurchatov and was once the town was once the centre of operations for the adjoining Semipalatinsk Test Site.

The second potential site is Balkash, and US firm Westinghouse’s design for a reactor there was “one of the most promising” Shkolnik said, without elaborating. It’s unclear which is preferred out of the two.

Construction costs are likely to be around $3-4bn per reactor. Any decision over a second powerplant will rely on the country’s energy needs following the construction of the first, and the success of its other energy production targets. Coal currently accounts for 73% of power generation, while gas, wind, renewable energy, including small hydro power, covered 18%, 8% and 0.6%, respectively. Kazakhstan plans to increase the share of electricity it produces from renewable sources to 3% in 2020, 10% in 2030 and 50% in 2050.

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Construction Week - Issue 749
Sep 15, 2019