The uranium mining and milling legacy site at Mailuu-Suu in Kyrgyzstan has 36 tailings and mine waste piles (Image: European Commission)
All the basic conditions are now in place for remediation work to begin at several uranium legacy sites in Kyrgyzstan after the country ratified a framework agreement with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The European Union is to provide an initial contribution of €16.5 million ($19.4 million) for the work.
The framework agreement, which Kyrgyzstan signed in January, is a precondition for the implementation of projects under the EBRD's Environmental Remediation Account for Central Asia fund. Today, the EU's Delegation to Kyrgyzstan said it welcomed the country's swift ratification of the agreement, which was passed by the Kyrgyz parliament on 28 June and signed into law by President Almazbek Atambayev earlier this month.
Central Asia was an important uranium-producing region in the former Soviet Union, leading to a large accumulation of radioactive contaminated material at mines in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and placed in waste dumps and tailing sites. Most of the mines were closed by 1995, but very little remediation of either mining sites or tailings storage facilities has been carried out. Many of the uranium legacy sites are in populated areas.
The EU has funded technical studies and environmental impact assessments at Kyrgyz uranium legacy sites in the areas of Mailiuu-Suu, Min-Khush and Shekaftar. Remediation work, which will improve living conditions in these areas and ensure the protection of the population from radiation exposure from the legacy sites, will be implemented through the EBRD fund beginning at Min-Khush and Shekaftar. The EU is currently the only contributor to the fund.
The Kyrgyz government will now be required to set up the necessary structures to manage the projects. The EU Delegation said technical assistance would be provided to enable it to do this.
A strategic master plan for the remediation of the Central Asian uranium legacy sites, setting out the technical basis for the remediation activities, has been prepared under the leadership of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and is to be signed during the IAEA's General Conference in September.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News