During the Soviet period, the uranium mining operations in Central Asia provided approximately 30% of the uranium production of the Soviet Union but left behind an extensive legacy of uranium mining and processing wastes, which remained abandoned or inadequately contained/secured on the former sites of uranium mining and processing. About 1 billion tons of waste from mining and processing radioactive ores is stored on these tailings sites and in the mining waste dumps of functioning and abandoned uranium mines in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. (Assessment and Proposals for Uranium Production Legacy Sites in Central Asia)
After gaining independence, the Kyrgyz Republic and other Central Asian countries have faced a wide array of issues including environmental and security problems that they inherited with the collapse of the Soviet Union and its vast nuclear infrastructure. One such problem is the presence on the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic of abandoned uranium mines and unprotected uranium tailings, waste byproducts of uranium mining, in densely populated areas prone to natural disasters and other environmental threats. If an environmental catastrophe involving these tailings were to occur, particularly in transboundary areas, it could affect the health, economy, and environment of the entire region. Such well-known threats are widely discussed at various levels of government and by diverse groups of experts. (Nuclear Threat Initiative)
In 2009 Kazakhstan became the world’s leading uranium producer. Over 2001-2010 production rose from 2000 to 17,800 tU/yr. Today the country produces 37% of the Uranium in the world (2013). (http://www.world-nuclear.org) The country will continue to dominate the world’s production of uranium up until 2025, according to Kazatomprom, the state-owned entity that mines and explores for uranium, and also produces atomic power in the former Soviet republic. Developing a new development strategy for the next decade, Kazatomprom says it will preserve the company’s leading position as extractor of natural uranium, by developing existing mines, building new ones and introducing technologies to improve efficiencies and reduce the costs of uranium extraction. (http://www.mining.com/)
Asia is the main region in the world where specifically nuclear power is growing. In East through to South Asia there are 98 operable nuclear power reactors, 49 under construction. Four-fifths of all new-build units (62) are in Asia and Eastern Europe, of which half (24) are in China alone. Over 60 percent (38) of the units under construction are located in just three countries: China, India, and Russia. Developments in Asia, and particularly in China, do not fundamentally change the global picture. Reported figures for China’s 2020 target for installed nuclear capacity have fluctuated between 40 GW and 120 GW in the past. The freeze of construction initiation for almost two years and new siting authorizations for four years has reduced Chinese ambitions. In 2014, China installed more wind power and solar photovoltaics than any other country, so worldwide it now has the largest capacity of wind power and the second largest of solar photovoltaics. China also installed more nuclear capacity in 2014 than any other country. Investment in renewables in China was by far the largest of any country with a total of US$ 83.3 billion of which solar PV was US$40 billion and wind power was US$38 billion. On the other hand, total investment in nuclear power was US$ 9.1 billion, down 13.8 percent.
*) in Japan since Fukushima are 48 reactors shut down, 2 are since August an Octobre in operation.
Expected developments: In China has pursued multiple SMR designs but the most advanced of these, and the one currently under construction, is the High Temperature Reactor (HTR) that it has developed since the 1970s. In turn, the Chinese design was based on the prior failed German effort to commercialize the technology”. China did not start a single new construction in 2014, but had done two in the first half of 2015—so far the world’s only starts.
In India, the main new SMR design that India has been developing since the 1990s is the Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR). The AHWR has also been repeatedly delayed. In 2003, the director of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai announced at a meeting of the Indian Nuclear Society that the AHWR’s “construction is proposed to be started within 2 years time”. Speaking to the Indian Science Congress in 2007, Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar promised: “We will start the construction on the AHWR sometime this year”.243 That hasn’t happened, but in December 2014, the DAE informed the Indian Parliament that the reactor is likely to be functional by 2020.
In Japan, 4 years after Fukushima accident the number of evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture as of January 2015 was about 120,000 (vs. 164,000 at the peak in June 2013). About 3,200 people have died for reasons related to the evacuation, such as decreased physical condition or suicide (all classified as earthquakearelated deaths”). Among these, about 1,800 people (more than half) are from Fukushima Prefecture. Many evacuated people have given up on returning to their homes even if the restrictions are lifted. 48 of 50 reactors are since the accident shut down. The power sector is in a period of profound transformation. New technology and policy developments favor decentralized systems and renewable energies. As these are generally not owned by incumbent electricity utilities, these developments are at best unfavorable and potentially a real threat for the nuclear industries and utilities.
South Korea has been developing the System-Integrated Modular Advanced Reactor (SMART) for nearly two decades. The project to develop an SMR was launched by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) in 1996. The result was the SMART design, which has received extensive Korean government and industry support. In 2010, a consortium consisting of Korea Electric Power Corporation, POSCO, STX Heavy Industries, Daewoo, Iljin, and Samchang pledged to contribute 100 billion won (about $83 million) to complete design work on the SMART. Like other SMRs, the SMART has also been long delayed.