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Uzbekistan gives green light to nuclear power plant project

Washington — The Uzbekistan government and Rosatom have reached an agreement to build the first nuclear power plant in the country, with commercial operations targeted to start by 2028, in an effort to free up natural gas for export, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said in a statement posted Tuesday on his website.

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The nuclear power plant would comprise two 1,200-MW units, Mirziyoyev said, although the statement did not specify what reactor technology was chosen for the project.

Uzbekistan needs the nuclear power plant to decrease the share of natural gas used in the domestic power generation industry, the statement said. Currently 85% of the country's estimated 69 billion kWh of demand is met by coal- and gas-fired generators, the statement added.

Uzbekistan consumes 16.5 billion cubic meters a year of domestically produced natural gas to generate electricity and demand is expected to increase, the statement said, without providing details. When the two reactors are fully operational, they will offset the need to use about to 3.7 billion cu m/year of gas, the statement said.

In addition, it said that by exporting this amount of gas, Uzbekistan would be able to earn from $550 million to $600 million a year. The country plans to build a facility to process indigenously produced gas to extract what it called value-added petrochemical products for export.

But Mirziyoyev said legislation must be enacted to regulate all uses of nuclear energy in the country. This legislation must comply with International Atomic Energy Agency requirements and basic international regulations in this field, Mirziyoyev said.

The president ordered that a new organization be formed that will manage construction of the new reactors and be responsible for their operation when the units enter commercial service.

Staff will be recruited to operate the reactors, the statement said, adding the recruits will be trained at nuclear plants in Russia and Belarus. --Jim Ostroff,

--Vladislav Vorotnikov,

--Edited by Valarie Jackson,