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Kazakhstan Considers Legislative Recognition of Nuclear Energy as an Alternative Source

By Vusala Abbasova June 7, 2024

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The document emphasizes the need to update national legislation for alternative and renewable energy sources, identifying three main issues hindering their development.

Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s largest nation, is contemplating a major shift in its energy policy by recognizing nuclear energy as an alternative source at the legislative level.

This proposal is detailed in the draft Law “On the Use of Alternative Energy Sources,” published by the Kazakh Energy Ministry on Wednesday. The draft law is open for public discussion until June 27, 2024.

“National legislation for alternative and renewable energy sources requires changes and actualization,” the document states.

The document emphasizes the need to update national legislation for alternative and renewable energy sources, identifying three main issues hindering their development. Currently, renewable energy sources (RES) account for about 5.9 percent of Kazakhstan’s total energy generation. The second issue is the lack of favorable conditions for developing non-renewable alternative energy sources. Thirdly, there is a lack of legislative regulation for activities involving alternative energy sources at the state level.

The Ministry of Energy highlights the absence of nuclear energy from the definition of alternative energy sources and the corresponding lack of preferences.

The current law, “On Supporting the Use of RES,” only addresses renewable energy sources. The Ministry argues that new provisions are necessary to support the development of other alternative energy sources. If nuclear energy is recognized legislatively, a nuclear power plant could be built by 2035, pending approval through a referendum. The construction budget is estimated between $10-15 billion. If the referendum does not pass, Kazakhstan plans to develop hydrogen hubs by 2029-2030, which would not require state funding.

Kazakhstan’s government has been discussing the construction of a nuclear power plant for years. In 2021, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev stressed the importance of making a decision on this issue, despite its unpopularity. He warned of a potential power shortage by 2030 and instructed the government and the Samruk-Kazyna National Wealth Fund to study the feasibility of developing a nuclear power industry.

According to media reports, the first nuclear power plant could be built near Lake Balkhash in the Almaty region.

Kazakhstan is the world’s largest producer of uranium, possessing about 12 percent of the world’s recoverable uranium resources. Although the country has not used its uranium for electricity generation in decades, nuclear security remains a top priority. Kazakhstan previously operated a facility to produce electricity and desalinate water from 1973 until it closed in 1999, following the government’s commitment to the global non-proliferation regime.

The country offers significant advantages for nuclear energy development, which is sometimes considered a clean energy technology due to its lack of carbon emissions. Recognizing nuclear energy as an alternative source could position Kazakhstan as a leader in sustainable energy development in Central Asia.