29 Apr (NucNet): A grant agreement signed between the Kyrgyz authorities and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has “set the stage” for the start of remedial work at two uranium legacy sites in Kyrgyzstan – part of a wider plan to deal with the harmful legacy of Soviet-era uranium mining and processing in Central Asia.
The EBRD said in a statement today that work is now expected to begin this year, initially at the Shekaftar site in the west of the country, about 10 km from the border with Uzbekistan. The other uranium site covered by the grant is Ming-Kush in central Kyrgyzstan.
The agreement allows for the start of a tender process for the selection of a contractor for the work at the Ming-Kush and Shekaftar sites. These two sites have been identified as top priorities because of the environmental risks they pose.
A fund was set up in 2015 to rehabilitate high-priority sites in the Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Framework agreements have been signed with all three countries. The fund is managed by the EBRD and supported by contributions from the European commission, Belgium, Switzerland, Norway and Lithuania.
Central Asia served as an important source of uranium in the former Soviet Union. Uranium was mined for over 50 years and uranium ore was also imported from other countries for processing.
A large amount of radioactively-contaminated material was placed in mining waste dumps and tailing sites. Most of the mines were closed by 1995 but very little remediation was done before or after the closure of the mining and milling operations.