Russia agrees to build nuclear plant with 6 small modular reactors in Uzbekistan

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Russia has agreed to build a nuclear power plant comprising a series of small modular reactors (SMRs) in the central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, which will be the first project of its kind in the region, according to the Russian state atomic agency corporation Rosatom.  

A Rosatom statement said that the agreement was signed during the recent visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Uzbekistan and following his meeting with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.  

“The protocol (signed between both countries) amended the Intergovernmental Agreement on cooperation in the construction of a nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan, expanding the cooperation to include the construction of a small nuclear power plant based on a Russian project in Uzbekistan,” the statement said.  

“The project involves the construction of a small nuclear power plant in the Jizzakh region of Uzbekistan based on a Russian design, with a total capacity of 330 MW (six reactors with a capacity of 55 MW each). Rosatom will be the general contractor for the construction of the plant, and local companies will also be involved in the construction process,” it added.  

Uzbekistan is the most populous country in Central Asia and has one of the world’s fastest growing economies, according to World Bank data. The state-run nuclear agency, Uzatom, estimates that the country will need to double its electricity output by 2030 to meet consumer demand. Uzbekistan’s current reliance on coal, gas, oil and hydropower will not be enough to meet the growing demand, even with plans to double its hydropower capacity by 2030. 

Uzbekistan’s current electricity demand is around 69 billion kilowatt hours (KWh), while the country produces 64 billion KWh, and total demand is expected to rise to 117 billion KWh by 2030.  

Uzbekistan’s current installed power capacity is around 15 gigawatts (GW), of which 85 percent comes from thermal sources. By 2030, this capacity, with the addition of nuclear power, is expected to go up to 20 GW, when the thermal component would drop to 66 percent. According to Uzatom, nuclear energy is expected to account for over 15 percent of the country’s generation mix and ensure stable energy supply with the expectation of power demand doubling by 2030. 

With abundant uranium resources, Uzbekistan is naturally not new to nuclear power, and has been involved in researching nuclear technologies for 60 years. Its Institute of Nuclear Physics of the Academy of Sciences operated a 10 MW research reactor until recently. 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been actively supporting Uzbekistan in building capacity for the country’s nuclear programme. Around 100 technical cooperation projects have been completed involving financial assistance of $20 million. Moreover, 4 projects aimed at building Uzbekistan’s technical capacity, human resources, developing nuclear infrastructure, as well as strengthening nuclear and radiation safety have been approved by the IAEA. 

According to Rosatom, the small nuclear power plant (SNPP) project in Uzbekistan’s Jizzakh region will be based on the latest RITM-200N reactor, which is an adaptation of Russia’s innovative marine technology for land-based deployment.  

The RITM-200N’s thermal power capacity is 190 MW, while its electrical power is 55 MW, and its service life is up to 60 years. RITM-200 series reactors, on which the RITM-200N reactor is based, have been tested in harsh Arctic conditions on the modern Russian icebreakers.  

Since 2012, ten RITM-200 reactors have been manufactured for the universal nuclear icebreakers Arktika, Sibir, Ural, Yakutia, and Chukotka. The first three are already in operation, accompanying vessels in the western Arctic region. 

A small nuclear power plant based on the RITM-200N reactor is already under construction in the village of Ust-Kuyga, Yakutia, in the Russian Far East. The first power unit is expected to be launched in 2027, with commissioning in 2028. The facility will provide electricity to industrial enterprises, including the development of the Kyuchus, Deputatskoye, and Tirekhtyakh mineral deposits, the statement said.  

Small modular reactors of up to 300 MW installed capacity offer several advantages, such shorter construction times compared to large-capacity nuclear power plants due to their compactness, and the potential to increase capacity according to the country’s needs.  

According to the IAEA, there are about 50 SMR designs worldwide at various stages of development. The world’s first floating nuclear power plant (FNPP) Akademik Lomonosov, powered by two SMRs, currently supplies energy to the remote city of Pevek in the Arctic region of Russia.