An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expert team from the Coordination Group for Uranium Legacy Sites (CGULS) is preparing independent cost estimates to help Tajikistan plan remediation of uranium legacy sites. The team spent almost two weeks visiting legacy sites, including exposed tailings bodies and remnants of uranium mills and other infrastructure, at Map 1-9, Degmay and Tashobar. The visit was supported by Tajikistan regulator, the Nuclear and Radiation Safety Agency of the Academy of Sciences, and site operator State Enterprise Tajredmet.

Tajikistan is implementing a work programme to place an interim cover on open uranium tailings facilities in Degmay, to reduce dust hazards to surrounding communities and the environment. The CGULS team is now preparing independent indicative cost estimates that will assist in planning the remediation work. Uranium mining, carried out by the Soviet Union in Tajikistan, ceased in 1992  but very little remediation of mines or tailings facilities was carried out.

The Tajikistan government in 2014 resolved to rehabilitate legacy tailings by 2024. In 2015, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) at the request of the European Commission (EC) set up the Environmental Remediation Account for Central Asia to finance the remediation of sites in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan identified as "high priority". The EC provided an initial €8m ($9m) in funding. Earlier this year, the bank signed framework agreements with the Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, a precondition for the implementation of projects under the fund.

CGULS works in close cooperation with Central Asian states, Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, the European Commission and the EBRD. "Together, we are working to remediate and establish safe regulatory control of these sites, which are the legacy of uranium production activities carried out from the 1950s to the 1990s," IAEA waste safety specialist Michelle Roberts said.

Information collected from the visit, together with that from a similar visit to Kyrgyzstan in October last year, will support the development of a strategic plan for the remediation of uranium legacy sites in Central Asia. The plan will be used by the EBRD to secure pledges for the Environmental Remediation Account.

Date: Tuesday, 28 March 2017
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