Stemming the rot

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

Radioactive material from this (Credit: Santiago Giralt)Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister, Nikolai Tanayev, has vowed to prevent the country from becoming a uranium wasteland. His statement followed a public outcry against a Kyrgyz company's plans to process uranium from Germany. "The country needs to solve problems regarding its own uranium waste sites first," Tanayev said in a cabinet meeting.

The Kara-Balta Ore Processing Factory signed a us $1-million contract with a German company to process graphite containing uranium. But the people's protests have made the government wary about granting it a licence. Kyrgyzstan, a former Soviet republic, already has several uranium waste sites. They sprouted in the country when it was a key supplier of the radioactive substance. Some of these spots, located in landslide-prone areas, are decaying. Consequently, water supplies in Central Asia's Ferghana valley -- the region's most densely populated area and agricultural heartland -- are threatened.

Environmental groups and other non-governmental organisations contend that Kyrgyzstan should not expand its uranium waste sites, which have not been rehabilitated. But the factory owners claim that the deal would benefit the industry, and have promised to bury the processed material at special sites under strict measures. For now, the greens have succeeded in stalling the venture.

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