The discussions that arose after the peaceful catastrophes at a number of nuclear facilities in the world does not cease. The number of supporters and opponents of the construction of nuclear power plants is approximately equal. But over the years, there are more proponents of nuclear-free electricity.
The attitude of the Uzbek authorities regarding the construction of a nuclear power plant caused a mixed reaction in Central Asia. Opponents of the idea are mainly residents of the region, which has a geographical proximity to the location of the potential station. The closest neighbors of the Uzbek state in the light of the disasters in Ukraine, Japan and other countries reasonably fear for their future.
An intergovernmental agreement between Russia and Uzbekistan on the construction of a nuclear power plant was signed in September 2018, and it looks like the facility will be constructed. This is indicated by the results of the visit to Uzbekistan by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who, with his Uzbek counterpart Shavkat Mirziyoyev, discussed the details of this project.
A nuclear power plant will be built by the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom on a site near Lake Tuzkan Aydar in the Arnai system of lakes in the Jizzakh region. The cost of the project will be about 11 billion US dollars, and the first power unit is planned to be launched in 2028. It is expected that as a result of the launch of the station, Uzbekistan will annually be able to save about 7 billion cubic meters of natural gas, which, if sold without processing it, will bring about 550-600 million dollars a year to the treasury.
However, even these promising figures and calculations did not cause any special euphoria in the public consciousness of the citizens of Uzbekistan. Moreover, most citizens of the republic were understandably wary of the idea of a neighborhood with a nuclear reactor. Indeed, the disasters at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and at Fakushima in Japan clearly demonstrated what nuclear projects could lead to. And even the most ambitious forecasts regarding economic benefits and benefits are not able to overshadow the losses, the probability of which looms around nuclear power plants.
If we consider many of the characteristic parameters of the Central Asian region, we must admit that this is not the most stable space on the world map. If we talk about the prospects of nuclear power plants in terms of safety in general, they have a rather high percentage of risk. Uzbek environmental activists who oppose the implementation of the project have already created a group called Uzbekistan against nuclear power plants on Facebook. Its participants sent a petition addressed to the President of Uzbekistan, as well as to the chairman of the upper house of parliament, Narbaeva, the general director of Rasatom Alexei Likhachev and the leadership of the IAEA. In it, they indicate that the decision to build a nuclear power plant was made without public hearings and public discussion. That is, while there is no consent of the people of Uzbekistan.
Ordinary people draw the attention of the government to the fact that the decision was also made without taking into account the opinions of specialists of the republic. A question of this level is worth holding a referendum. In principle, freedom of the will of the people on crucial issues in the Uzbek realities does not sound quite typical. The new authorities of the country went to the democratization of life and respect for rights and freedoms. However, in this problem the political leadership did not consider it necessary to find out the opinion of the people. You see, the conditions of harsh autocratic rule (1991-2016) still make themselves felt.
Moreover, the authors did not take into account the ideas and features of the geographic location of the republic. Jizzar region is one of the seismically active regions of the country. At least 10-12 cases of an earthquake with an amplitude of one to four points are recorded here annually. And the climate here is not suitable for finding safe places for storing nuclear waste. This important motive is indicated by local experts.
There is another danger. An operating nuclear power plant may become a target for terrorists and extremists who are carriers of elements of hybrid and asymmetric wars. Moreover, the region where the construction of the station is planned is located not far from unstable Afghanistan. And in Central Asia, including Uzbekistan, the situation as a whole is troubled. The well-known events in the Ferghana Valley (1989), when more than a hundred people died during interethnic frictions, regular cross-border conflicts with neighboring states do not inspire much optimism in terms of the ability of local elites to keep the situation stable in case of emergency situations at nuclear power plants.
It seems that the government of the Central Asian country does not intend to neglect the lessons of the past, and does not intend to abandon the nuclear power plant project. And the fact that it is in no hurry to listen to the voice of scientists and specialists, does not want to take into account the concerns of the intelligentsia, is surprising. But social forces are determined to reach high authorities. Many public and non-governmental organizations are sounding the alarm on this issue and are trying to bring the issue to international discussion platforms. For example, the topic was raised at a meeting in the OSCE at which the human rights issue in Uzbekistan was discussed. Public activists just spoke about how the authorities of the republic ignore public opinion in the context of many pressing problems.
It is noteworthy that more recently, another post-Soviet republic of Lithuania requested the Council of the EU to convince another former Soviet republic of Belarus to reconsider its attitude to the results of stress tests at the BelNPP. Minsk is accused of documents that before the start of operation of the first unit of the nuclear power plant, it does not undertake obligations to implement recommendations regarding safety. However, this is another story.