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Uranium Legacy Remediation Fund Progresses In Tajikistan And Kyrgyz Republic

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By Axel  Reiserer

Efforts to overcome the legacy of uranium mining in Central Asia are making progress despite the global coronavirus pandemic. In Tajikistan, work on the preparation and eventual delivery of remediation can begin now that a framework agreement with the EBRD has entered into force. The document provides the legal basis for the implementation of projects in the country.

The EBRD established the Environmental Remediation Account for Central Asia (ERA) in 2015 at the initiative of the European Commission, to assist the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in remediating some of the most dangerous sites left by uranium production in these countries during the Soviet era.

In another step towards implementation, a contract for remediation works in Shekaftar in the Kyrgyz Republic has been signed. The mining complex includes three closed mines and eight mining-waste disposal areas that contain about 700,000 cubic metres of waste from mining operations. Radioactive waste-rock dumps, scattered around the village and next to a school, pose a risk to public health.

Once a thriving community based on uranium mining, today, due to its geographical position near the border with Uzbekistan and to the closure of the mines, Shekaftar has an unemployment rate of 70 per cent. The first remediation works will focus on the closure of six shafts and the relocation of five waste-rock dumps to an existing dump at a more remote location.

In response to the massive economic disruption caused by the spread of the coronavirus, the EBRD is stepping up its efforts to support the economies where it invests. This includes rapid response and recovery programmes as well as the continuation of vital work such as the Bank’s engagement in nuclear safety and decommissioning.

ERA is the latest fund managed by the Bank and supported by contributions from the European Commission, Belgium, Switzerland, the United States of America, Norway and Lithuania. Since 1993, the EBRD has also been active in the transformation of Chernobyl, the decommissioning of former Soviet-era nuclear reactors in Bulgaria, Lithuania and the Slovak Republic and the management of radioactive waste in north-western Russia.

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