Kazakhstan has made progress in implementing the recommendations of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear infrastructure review mission, a team of IAEA and international experts said.
Kazakhstan currently operates research reactors as well as several other nuclear installations related to the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle, including uranium mining. The central Asian country of 19 million people has the second largest uranium reserves in the world with 14% of the total. The country’s BN-350 fast breeder power reactor is currently being decommissioned after 25 years of operation having been shut down in 1999.
The Kazakhstan Ministry of Energy has proposed the potential reintroduction of nuclear power to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels, diversify its energy mix and reduce CO2 emissions. Kazakhstan Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP), which has been designated as the owner/operator of the future plant, began preparing a feasibility study in 2018 to justify the need for nuclear power, the choice of the location for plant construction and to review the plant’s projected power output.
The follow-up Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission team travelled to Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, from 28 to 31 March 2023, to assess the level of implementation of the recommendations and suggestions of the INIR mission carried out in 2016.
Mission team members reviewed the status of nuclear infrastructure development using the Phase 1 criteria of the IAEA’s Milestones Approach, a three-phase programme that supports countries to consider, prepare and construct a nuclear power plant. Phase 1 evaluates the readiness of a country to make a knowledgeable commitment to a nuclear power programme.
The mission team noted that Kazakhstan had fully addressed the recommendations in the areas of coordination of a nuclear power programme, financing of the nuclear power plant (NPP), emergency planning and radioactive waste management.
“Kazakhstan has made considerable effort to address the recommendations and suggestions made by the INIR team in 2016, which includes the preparatory work to inform the Government’s decision on whether to introduce a nuclear power programme,” said mission team leader Mehmet Ceyhan, Senior Nuclear Engineer in the IAEA’s Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section.
The team said that further work is needed to complete the comprehensive report that supports the decision making process for the nuclear power programme to assess the funding requirements for nuclear power infrastructure, to plan for further development of the regulatory body and future owner/operator KNPP, and to develop a policy for industrial involvement of the nuclear power programme in the country.
“By requesting the INIR mission, Kazakhstan has demonstrated its interest in obtaining an objective, professional assessment of the readiness of its nuclear infrastructure to supply nuclear power to the country. The INIR mission is a valuable tool to identify areas for improvement and to develop the nuclear energy industry of Kazakhstan,” said Zhandos Nurmaganbetov, Vice Minister of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
About INIR Missions
Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review missions enable IAEA Member State representatives to have in-depth discussions with international experts about experiences and best practices in different countries. Implementation of any of the INIR team’s recommendations is at the discretion of the Member State requesting the mission. The results of the INIR mission are expected to help the Member State to develop an action plan to fill any gaps, which in turn will help the development of the national nuclear infrastructure.
INIR follow-up missions assess the implementation of the recommendations and suggestions provided during the main mission. No further recommendations are made.