22 Aug 2023 17:59

Civil activists in Kazakhstan demand referendum on nuclear power plant construction

ASTANA. Aug 22 (Interfax) - Heated debates have broken out between supporters and opponents of the nuclear power plant construction in the Ulken village during a public hearing, an Interfax correspondent reported.

Nuclear industry experts outlined the benefits of the future nuclear power plant and won a group of local residents. Public figures and environmental activists who opposed the construction of the nuclear power plant called for putting the issue to the referendum.

Civil activist Rysbek Sarsenbayuly said that "the decision to build a nuclear power plant in Ulken is not an issue for the local residents to decide alone, arguing that this is a political issue and the fate of Lake Balkhash is at stake."

"It is necessary to hold a referendum on the construction of a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan," he said.

This view has been shared by well-known Kazakh environmentalist Mels Yeleusizov, who also spoke out against the construction of a nuclear power plant. "The station will be cooled by water from Balkhash. The lake will die, as will everything alive in it. We must save Balkhash," he said.

The Ulken village area has been previously selected as the most suitable location for the construction of a nuclear power plant.

The Energy Ministry said that in accordance with the Law on the Use of Atomic Energy, the decision on the construction and location of nuclear facilities is made "by the government with the consent of Maslikhats, local representative bodies."

In November 2022, the Almaty region maslikhat agreed to give its approval for the NPP site provided that the local residents support the decision as well.

The nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan is supposed to be built by an international pool of investor near the Ulken settlement in the Almaty region. According to the Energy Ministry, the work could take up to 10 years, with the cost of one power unit reaching $5 billion on average. In Kazakhstan's forecast energy balance through 2035, one of the options is the commissioning of a nuclear power plant with a total capacity of 2.4 GW.