Preparations begin to overcome legacy of uranium mining in Uzbekistan


Subsidy of € 2 million from the Central Asia Environmental Remediation Account

Preparations to tackle the legacy of former uranium mining sites in Uzbekistan can begin, following the signing today of a grant agreement between the Environmental Cleanup Account for Asia Central (ERA) and the government of Uzbekistan.

The € 2 million grant will support a newly created Project Management Unit (PMU), which will deal with the environmental rehabilitation of the former uranium mining sites of Yangiabad and Charkesar, located in the mountains to the east. from the Uzbek capital Tashkent.

The grant agreement was signed in a hybrid ceremony attended by Balthasar Lindauer, director of the EBRD’s Department of Nuclear Safety, and Islombek Boqijonov, vice-chairman of the State Committee for Ecology and environmental protection of Uzbekistan. The signing follows the approval of an updated Strategic Master Plan (SMP) to resolve the uranium legacy in Central Asia.

As a first step, the PMU can begin to prepare the necessary tender documentation for the remediation works on the two sites. Physical field work is expected to begin in the third quarter of 2022 and will last approximately two years.

Located at an altitude of 1,300 meters in an area at high risk of seismic activity, and about 70 km from Tashkent, Yangiabad has been a uranium mining site for nearly 40 years. It stretches over 50 km2 and contains approximately 2.6 million m3 of radioactive waste. The planned remediation work includes the closure of four wells, the demolition of contaminated buildings and treatment facilities, the relocation of several waste rock piles to a covered central pile and other related activities.

The village of Charkesar, located in the mountains 140 km east of the Uzbek capital, was a uranium mining site until 1995 and is still home to around 3,500 people. The remediation work planned on this site includes the closure of two wells and the demolition of abandoned buildings.

The SMP was approved in September 2021 by the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, as well as by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the European Union (EU), the EBRD and the Company of Russian State of Atomic Energy (Rosatom). It will serve as an example on how to coordinate nuclear remediation activities at priority sites.

The ERA, created in 2015 at the initiative of the EU and managed by the EBRD, deals with the legacy of Soviet uranium mining in Central Asia. The EU is the largest donor to the ERA, while contributions have also been made by Belgium, Lithuania, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the United States of America.

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