Supplier turns consumer

8 January 2010

With its rich reserves of natural uranium – estimated at 21% of world reserves – and an industrial, scientific and technological base, Kazakhstan is actively working to create its own nuclear energy industry. The nuclear energy industry in Kazakhstan is one of the government’s most important areas of economic development, as reflected in the national Strategy of Industrial & Innovative Development for 2003-2015.

Kazakhstan is well-placed to develop a nuclear energy industry for several reasons.

First, Kazakhstan possesses an advanced uranium mining and processing industry and Kazatomprom, the national nuclear company, produces reactor fuel.

Second, Kazakhstan has an engineering industry capable of producing certain types of power equipment. Kazakhstan has also developed atomic sciences through its National Nuclear Centre and its basic experimental devices, including research reactors.

Finally, Kazakhstan has access to highly skilled personnel, both in the nuclear industry and in nuclear sciences. These human resources include professionals involved in the operation of BN-350 power reactor and running of the IVG, IGR and WWR-K research reactors operated by the national nuclear centre of Kazakhstan.

The main component of nuclear power development in Kazakhstan will be the construction of several nuclear power plants. Specialists of Kazakhstan’s National Nuclear Centre propose choosing an existing nuclear power plant project as the foundation upon which a pilot unit will be constructed, with international assistance. Kazakhstan will participate in the development and detailed design of the pilot project. This model is now being used by Romania, India, China and many other countries. It is obviously the most appropriate choice for Kazakhstan, as it allows us to acquire our own nuclear power plant project, and, within a reasonable timeframe, to develop and maximize our own nuclear industry. The purchase of nuclear power plants and ready-made projects is not ruled out in case of acute electricity shortages and high commercial attractiveness.

“In western Kazakhstan, units with a capacity of 220MW can be deployed. In other areas, 600MW units can be used.

At the initial stage of nuclear power development, it is necessary to focus on a single type of reactor, with an optimum power range based on deployment of two- or three-unit plants, depending on location. This approach will allow us to harmonize the production of components of nuclear power and – to the maximum extent possible – develop and use production capacities within the country for manufacturing nuclear equipment, as well as to implement technical policies on the manufacture of nuclear power plant equipment. Moreover, it will provide optimal conditions for staff training, and employment of available professionals who have gained operating experience at previous nuclear power plant units.

Judging by the development of the national economy, we expect growth of electricity consumption to double from 77.5TWh in 2008 to 173TWh in 2030. From 2013-2015, a shortfall of electricity is forecast for the whole of Kazakhstan. This shortfall will be partially covered through technical upgrading and commissioning of new facilities at existing or planned power plants. However, we need to set up new stations with a total electric power capacity of approximately 6.6GW before 2030. The decision on the construction of such stations has not yet been made.

Following construction feasibility studies, various regions in Kazakhstan were proposed as possible locations for nuclear power plants. The studies took into account climate and geological characteristics, as well as logistics, power lines and availability of water for cooling. Currently, we are scrutinizing economic information.

Nuclear power can be considered as a source of baseload power together with, or instead of, coal thermal power station in the south of Kazakhstan. Based on current grid infrastructure in western Kazakhstan, units with a capacity of 220MW can be deployed. In other areas, 600MW units can be used.

It is advisable that nuclear power plants are standardized, built in blocks of 600MW capacity, as well as up to 800-1000MW, provided Kazakhstan’s energy infrastructure is modernized. It is preferential to construct nuclear power plants in the nodal points of power, near large cities and water sources such as Balkhash, Taraz, Aktau, Kostanay and Kurchatov. During the first stage (up to 2035), Generation III and III+ light water reactors (PWR/BWR) would be built. In the longer term, the use of Generation IV reactors (fast reactors and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors) is also envisaged.

Kazakhstan has already shown its commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear energy. It has voluntarily renounced the world’s fourth-largest nuclear arsenal and shut down the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. Furthermore, we declare our readiness to support various initiatives aimed at improving the safety of the international fuel cycle, including – through the initiative of president Nursultan Nazarbayev – hosting an international nuclear fuel bank in Kazakhstan under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) auspices.

Author Info:

By Kairat Kadyrzhanov, director general of the National Nuclear Centre of Kazakhstan and member, International Engineering Academy and Russian Academy of Natural Sciences

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