An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts has concluded a 12-day mission to Uzbekistan to review its development of infrastructure for a nuclear power programme. The Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) was carried out at the invitation of the government of Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan and Russia signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in December 2017, and in September 2018 a further agreement was signed for the construction by Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom of two VVER-1200 reactors. These are to be commissioned in 2028 and 2030, respectively. In 2019, Uzbekistan initiated the process to select a site for its first nuclear power plant.
INIR missions enable representatives from IAEA member states to have in-depth discussions with international experts about conditions and best international practices in the development of a nuclear power programme. The INIR team that visited Uzbekistan comprised one expert from Brazil and one expert from Bulgaria, and eight IAEA staff. It reviewed the status of 19 nuclear infrastructure issues using the Phase 2 criteria of the IAEA's Milestones Approach, which provides detailed guidance across three phases of development (consider, prepare, construct). Prior to the latest mission, Uzbekistan submitted a Self-Evaluation Report and supporting documents covering all infrastructure issues to the IAEA.
The INIR team concluded the country's nuclear power programme benefits from strong governmental support and shows a clear commitment to safety, security and non-proliferation. The team added that Uzbekistan has made significant progress in the nuclear power plant project development and taken steps to enhance its legal and regulatory framework and strengthen the regulatory body.
"Uzbekistan has made substantive progress in the development of its nuclear power infrastructure," said team leader Milko Kovachev, head of the IAEA's Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section. "It is essential that the government remains well-focused in further advancing the necessary legal and institutional framework."
The team made recommendations and suggestions to assist Uzbekistan in preparing to construct its first nuclear power plant.
The team highlighted areas where further actions would benefit Uzbekistan, including the need to adhere to international legal instruments to which it is not yet a party, such as the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage and its Protocol. It also said the government should ensure a consistent and complete national legal framework for nuclear safety and nuclear security by consolidating and strengthening legislation. Uzbekistan also needs to ensure adequate human and financial resources for the nuclear regulatory body. While the country has made significant progress in the nuclear power plant project development, work remains to be completed on project-related studies, environmental assessment procedures, stakeholder engagement activities and construction management capabilities.
The INIR team also identified good practices that would benefit other countries developing nuclear power in the areas of human resources, finance and nuclear security.
"Developing the infrastructure required for a safe and sustainable nuclear power programme requires time and effort," said Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA deputy director general and head of the Department of Nuclear Energy, who attended the mission's closing meeting. "Uzbekistan already has considerable nuclear-related experience, gained through its research reactors and other nuclear research facilities and its progress towards nuclear power is commendable."
Mirzamakhmudov Jurabek, director-general of the Uzatom Agency, said: "The results of the INIR mission will help the Republic of Uzbekistan to ensure the safe development of a national nuclear programme. The outcome of the mission will also help us develop an action plan which in turn will contribute to the development of the national nuclear infrastructure. By receiving the INIR mission, Uzbekistan demonstrated its complete openness and interest in obtaining an objective professional assessment of the readiness of its nuclear infrastructure."