The environmental community of Kazakhstan demands from the government to impose a moratorium on the project for the construction of a nuclear power plant, which the authorities have outlined in the village of Ulken in the Almaty region. Activists of the “Ecoforum of Kazakhstan” association, which unites more than 40 non-governmental organizations in all regions of the country, demand to stop discussions in a “closed circle”, and declare that plans and decisions on the construction of a nuclear power plant should be held with broad public participation, and Kazakhstan should not become “ platform for experiments.
Svetlana Mogilyuk, chairman of Ecoforum, spoke about the dissatisfaction around the planned construction of the nuclear power plant and the public hearings scheduled for the end of February (they were postponed indefinitely. – Ed.), to which only residents of the proposed construction site of the nuclear power plant were invited, at a meeting with the Minister of Ecology, Geology and natural resources of Kazakhstan. This meeting took place on February 28 and was broadcast live on the official website of the Ministry of Ecology. Mogilyuk says that the environmental community learned about the planned hearings from the social network, where an announcement was made from the district akimat, which, according to Mogilyuk, is already a violation.
— At a meeting with the minister, I raised the issue that so far the issue is not being discussed with the public properly, in compliance with the Environmental Code of Kazakhstan and the Aarhus Convention, to which Kazakhstan is a party. Those hearings that were going to be held on February 28, but then nevertheless canceled, were organized with gross violations, and the explanations of the Ministry of Ecology did not remove this issue. So far, there is no detailed information about what is planned. Then why such hearings? Is this not a profanation of the discussion process? I hope we will be able to organize a real discussion soon,” Svetlana Mogilyuk, chairman of the association of legal entities Association Ecoforum of Kazakhstan, tells RFE/RL.
Similar calls are contained in the online petition “We demand an indefinite moratorium on the construction of nuclear power plants in Kazakhstan,” which the Ecoforum of Kazakhstan association published on February 18. To date, almost 2.5 thousand people have supported the petition, 600 voted against the moratorium. Activists expressed indignation that the authorities were going to hold public hearings only with residents of the Zhambyl district and the village of Ulken, the site of the proposed construction of a nuclear power plant.
“It’s like it doesn’t apply to the people of the whole country and the voice of most of us means nothing. The construction of a nuclear power plant carries potential risks for the life and health of Kazakhstanis and residents of border countries, and for the security of Kazakhstan. The world has already experienced the catastrophic consequences of the accidents at Fukushima and Chernobyl, nuclear blackmail at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, ”the petition says.
The Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, was seized by Russian troops in Ukraine shortly after the start of a full-scale invasion, in March 2022. Since then, Kyiv and Moscow have repeatedly accused each other of shelling the territory near the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, which causes concern in other countries, including Kazakhstan.
The public organization “Ecological Museum” from Karaganda also called on Kazakhstanis to support the introduction of a moratorium on nuclear power plant construction projects in Kazakhstan. According to activists, there are less risky and more environmentally friendly scenarios for covering electricity needs, citing renewable energy as an example.
After this petition, on February 25, the opposite one was launched – in support of the construction of a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan. Its author, a certain Svetlana Hekkurainen, speaking on behalf of the inhabitants of the village of Ulken, writes that if “we do not start building a nuclear power plant in the near future, then we will face a large energy shortage.” Approximately the same wording is always used by the authorities when they talk about the need to build a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan. This petition was supported by more than 500 people and more than 400 votes against the planned construction.
Earlier, the government of Kazakhstan announced plans to build a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan. The idea is resisted by activists, environmentalists and a number of energy experts who do not consider building a nuclear power plant safe and commercially viable. In April 2019, on the eve of the anniversary of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, said that without taking into account the opinion of the population, “the decision on the nuclear power plant will not be made.” Two and a half years later, speaking online at a forum in Russia, he said: “We need a nuclear power plant.” Moreover, he kept silent about the opinions of Kazakhstanis. In 2022, Tokayev, at a meeting of the council of foreign investors in the capital, said that Kazakhstan had chosen a site for the location of the nuclear power plant, was studying technologies from potential suppliers, and that they would start as early as 2023. Later it was reported that an international consortium could build a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan. The consortium included the Chinese China National Nuclear Corporation, the Korean company KHNP (Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power), the French EDF (Electricite de France) and the Russian Rosatom.
A number of experts consider a nuclear power plants in Central Asia are extremely risky projects in terms of environmental impact, which, moreover, are capable of making the republics dependent on the builder of the reactor for decades to come.