Russia to build nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev says Uzbekistan also interested in buying more oil and gas from Russia.

In this photograph distributed by the Russian state agency Sputnik, Russia's President Vladimir Putin (left) and Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev (right) visit the 'Ode to Fortitude' memorial complex in Tashkent, Uzbekistan [Mikhail Metzel/Pool/AFP]

Russia will build a small nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan, the first such project in post-Soviet Central Asia, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has said as he met visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin said on Monday that Russia would put $400m into a joint investment fund of $500m to finance projects in Uzbekistan.

Mirziyoyev also said Tashkent was interested in buying more oil and gas from Russia, a reversal of decades-long practice where Moscow imported hydrocarbons from Central Asia.

The Uzbek president described Putin’s visit as “historic”.

“It heralds the beginning of a new age in the comprehensive strategic partnership and alliance relations between our countries,” Mirziyoyev said.

Putin described Tashkent as a “strategic partner and reliable ally”.

According to documents published by the Kremlin, Russian state nuclear firm Rosatom will build up to six nuclear reactors with a capacity of 55 megawatts each in Uzbekistan, a much smaller-scale project than the 2.4-gigawatts one agreed in 2018, which remains to be finalised.

The agreement, if implemented, will showcase Russia’s ability to export not only energy, but also high-tech products to new Asian markets, at a time when the West is increasing pressure on it through sanctions.

There are no nuclear power plants in any of the five ex-Soviet Central Asian republics, although Uzbekistan and its neighbour Kazakhstan, both uranium producers, have long said their growing economies needed them.

The Kazakh project, however, can only move ahead after a national referendum that has not yet been scheduled.

“Nearly all the leading countries of the world ensure their energy security and sustainable development with the help of nuclear energy,” Mirziyoyev said.

Gas deliveries

Putin also announced that Moscow would sharply increase gas deliveries to Uzbekistan.

Russia, a major fossil fuel producer, has important energy projects with neighbours in the region as they face energy shortfalls despite having their own gas and oil resources.

Uzbekistan last October started importing Russian natural gas via the same pipeline which had previously pumped it in the reverse direction.

Although its own gas production remains substantial at about 50 billion cubic metres a year, Uzbekistan struggles to fully meet domestic demand, and Russian supplies have allowed it to avert an energy crisis.

The two leaders also said their governments were working on large projects in mining, metals, and chemicals.

Uzbekistan, whose economy depends heavily on remittances from migrant labourers working in Russia, has maintained close ties with Moscow after it invaded Ukraine in 2022.

However, Mirziyoyev and other leaders in the region have not spoken publicly in support of what the Kremlin calls its special military operation in Ukraine, and the countries in the region are also working with the West on projects such as cargo shipping routes designed to bypass Russia.

Source: News Agencies