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UzAtom eyes economic dividends of nuclear power, carbon credits

UzAtom eyes economic dividends of nuclear power, carbon credits

Uzbekistan is exploring the economic potential of nuclear energy. The emissions-free power generation enabled by a nuclear power plant would enable to country to trade carbon credits.


In one estimate prepared by UzAtom, the Uzbekistan’s state nuclear agency, the Uzbek economy would stand to gain $19 billion over the lifetime of the nuclear power plant through the trading of carbon credits.


Jurabek Mirzamakhmudov, UzAtom’s director, spoke to Dynamic Uzbekistan about his agency’s assessment.


“We often hear that atomic energy is too expensive. In fact, the operation of a nuclear power plant is relatively cheap. Of course, first you have to build it. The construction of a large plant does cost a lot, and in general, the share of safety systems in the cost of nuclear power plants is significant,” he said.


The Uzbek government is building the country's first nuclear power plant in cooperation with Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned enterprise focused on nuclear technology. The project, which includes two VVER-1200 reactors, was announced in 2018 during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s state visit to Uzbekistan. The new plant is expected to come online in 2028.


Each dollar invested in construction and operation of the power plant should return around 5 dollars to the Uzbek economy, according to UzAtom’s assessment.


Mirzamakhmudov also sees significant economic potential should Uzbekistan reduce dependence on natural gas for power generation. More power generation from nuclear energy would save “3 to 3.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually,” which could be exported rather than consumed domestically.  


There are also dividends for the environment to consider. “If all the risks associated with global climate change are included in the calculations, then the price of nuclear power plants also seems quite affordable,” Mirzamakhmudov added.


Uzbekistan would aim to trade carbon credits earned through the use of emissions-free nuclear power. Over the likely 60 year lifespan of a nuclear power plant, the carbon savings could be worth $19 billion if calculated based on the emissions of gas-fired power plants and $35 billion if calculated based on the emissions of coal-fired power plants.