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Plan to clean up Central Asia uranium mining legacy signed

By Axel  Reiserer

Plan to clean up Central Asia uranium mining legacy signed

Uranium legacy site, Uzbekistan © European Commission

Agreement on Strategic Master Plan developed by expert group under IAEA guidance

Efforts to overcome the legacy of uranium mining in Central Asia have taken an important step forward with the signing of a Strategic Master Plan.

The Plan was developed by a group of experts established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It sets out a detailed blueprint for the environmental remediation of priority sites in the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

These three countries are in the scope of the Environmental Remediation Account for Central Asia (ERA) established at the EBRD in 2015 at the initiative of the European Commission (EC). The fund will manage international donor support to deal with the challenges originating from legacy sites and affecting local populations and the environment.

In order to ensure a coordinated, timely and cost-effective approach in accordance with international conventions and agreements, the Plan ranks remediation measures in terms of risks and priorities. It also develops an integrated approach for evaluating the remediation needs of each site. All of this flows into a programme detailing precisely the main tasks or activities, along with schedules, key milestones and costs.

The total cost of all measures outlined in the Plan is estimated at €210 million. Of this amount, €56 million has already been made available by the EU, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the World Bank.

Work on the seven priority sites that will be covered by ERA is estimated to cost €85 million. While so far the European Commission is the sole contributor to ERA, with €16 million, a donor conference in 2018 will aim to close the funding gap.

The Strategic Master Plan was signed by Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, the IAEA, the EC and the EBRD at the IAEA General Conference in Vienna yesterday. The Kyrgyz Republic and Russia have confirmed their intention to join shortly.

Balthasar Lindauer, EBRD Deputy Director, Nuclear Safety, said: “We welcome the agreement on the Strategic Master Plan. This key document will be our joint roadmap for addressing the urgent issue of the legacy of uranium mining in Central Asia. Today’s signing marks very important progress and also demonstrates the determination of all parties present today to address this challenge. We appeal to the international community to join this effort to create a safe and healthy environment for the people of Central Asia.”

Central Asia served as an important source of uranium in the former Soviet Union. A large amount of radioactively contaminated material was placed in the waste dumps and tailing sites of mines. Most of these mines were closed by 1995 but very little remediation work was done. The accumulated radioactive material in the region is a threat to the environment and to the health of local populations.

ERA aims to help the countries address this challenge with international donor support, by remediating some of the most dangerous sites. In many cases, even basic measures such as covering tailings or protecting rivers are not in place.

The EBRD has more than two decades of experience in managing multi-donor accounts dedicated to nuclear safety and decommissioning. Among others, the Bank leads international efforts to transform Chernobyl, the site of the worst accident in the history of nuclear power generation, into an environmentally safe place. For more information see

ERA is the latest of the EBRD’s seven nuclear safety funds. Framework agreements have been signed with all three countries covered by ERA. The agreement on the Strategic Master Plan represents another milestone.

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