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Eurasianet is an independent news organization that covers news from and about the South Caucasus and Central Asia, providing on-the-ground reporting and critical perspectives on…

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China's Low-Cost Nuclear Offer Faces Scrutiny in Kazakhstan

  • The Chinese proposal offers a nuclear plant at half the price of French, Russian, and South Korean alternatives.
  • Concerns arise over the Chinese design using outdated technology, despite compatibility with Kazakh-produced fuel assemblies.
  • The projected cost for a two-unit nuclear power plant is over $12 billion, with an output of 2.4 GW of power.

A Kazakh media outlet, citing a watchdog group representative, is reporting that the Kazakh government is balking at a Chinese proposal to build the Central Asian nation’s first nuclear power plant. The Kazakh government has not officially commented on the report. 

The Kursiv news outlet cites Baurzhan Ibrayev, chair of the Central Asia advisory board of the UK-based New Nuclear Watch Institute, as saying the projected cost of the Chinese-built plant would be up to half the price of proposals submitted by French, Russian and South Korean entities. At the same time, Ibrayev appeared to cast shade on the Chinese nuclear industry, hinting in the Kursiv report that a Chinese entity used “not the latest technology” in a previous joint venture, which started up in 2015 to produce nuclear fuel assemblies in Kazakhstan.

One advantage of Beijing’s proposal is that a Chinese design would be compatible with Kazakh-produced fuel assemblies, or structured groups of fuel rods used to fuel for nuclear reactors, Kursiv reported. The other designs under consideration, however, couldn’t run on domestically produced fuel assemblies, according Ibrayev. “Today, there is new technology, new reactors” requiring different fuel, he is quoted as saying.

The cost of building a two-unit nuclear power plant could be more than $12 billion, according to Energy Ministry estimates. As currently envisioned, the two-unit plant could produce 2.4 GW of power.

Elsewhere, China is actively pursuing solar energy development in Uzbekistan. Uzbek diplomats from the consulate in the Chinese city of Guangzhou held talks with representatives of Laplace Energy Solutions in early December, focusing on developing a training program for Uzbek workers. Company experts will soon travel to Uzbekistan on a fact-finding mission, the Uzbek news agency Dunyo reports.

By Eurasianet.org

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