An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts on 3 June 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. In 2017, Uzbekistan signed an intergovernmental agreement with the Russian Federation to construct two VVER-1200 pressurised water reactors to be commissioned by 2030. In 2019 Uzbekistan initiated the process to select a site for its first NPP.
The INIR team comprised an expert from Brazil and an expert from Bulgaria, as well as eight IAEA staff. It reviewed the status of 19 nuclear infrastructure issues using the Phase 2 criteria of the IAEA’s Milestones evaluation methodology. This provides detailed guidance across three phases (consider, prepare, construct) of development. The Uzbekistan Ministry of Energy hosted the mission.
The INIR team said Uzbekistan’s nuclear power programme benefits from strong governmental support and shows a clear commitment to safety, security and non-proliferation. The team noted significant progress in NPP project development and steps taken to enhance the 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.”
In preparation for the mission, Uzbekistan submitted a Self-Evaluation Report and supporting documents covering all infrastructure issues to the IAEA. 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.
The team 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 significant progress has been made in NPP project development, work remains to be completed on project related studies, environmental assessment procedures, stakeholder engagement activities and construction management capabilities.
The team also identified good practices that would benefit other countries developing nuclear power in the areas of human resources, finance, and nuclear security. Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy attended the Mission’s closing meeting. "Developing the infrastructure required for a safe and sustainable nuclear power programme requires time and effort," he said. "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."
The Director-General of the Uzatom Agency, Mirzamakhmudov Jurabek, said: “Our technical working groups have worked hard over the past 12 months. 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. The INIR mission has become a valuable tool for identifying areas and fields requiring improvement and ensuring the availability of the necessary infrastructure for the development of nuclear technologies.”
Image: Bakrhom Mansurov, First Deputy Director General, Uzatom Agency; Mirzamakhmudov Jurabek, Director-General, Uzatom; Mikhail Chudakov, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy, International Atomic Energy Agency; Milko Kovachev, Section Head Nuclear Infrastructure Development, International Atomic Energy Agency (from left to right) during the closing session of the INIR mission (photo courtesy of IAEA)