by Nathan Hamm on 10/14/2004

Kyrgyzstan’s Karabalta mining and processing plant (KGRK) is one of the few facilities in the world that separates uranium from graphite. Until the deal was axed, British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL) had planned to ship 1,800 tons of uranium-bearing graphite to KGRK for processing. BNFL said they planned to extract 60 tons of usable uranium for use in the UK and leave behind the remaining graphite.

Krygyz activists protested the deal, and one can kind of understand. Central Asia already has plenty of nuclear waste creating problems across the region.

However, as IWPR reports, workers at Karabalta and officials in at least one ministry are upset that the deal was cancelled.

For the workers in the Karabalta plant, one of the few factories in the world that separates uranium from graphite, the government’s decision imperils their livelihoods.

“We haven’t been paid for half a year, and we don’t have raw materials to work with. Our plant was built to process uranium, nothing else. What should we do, die of starvation?” said a KGRK employee, who wished to remain anonymous.

Boris Karpachov, the head of the radiation safety service at the Governmental State Agency for Geology and Mineral Resources, lashed out at the groups trying to derail the contract with BNFL.

“KGRK is looking for partners, trying to survive, while NGOs are busy with their intrigues and demagogy, preventing contracts from being signed, which are the only chance for the workers and for all residents of Karabalta,” he said.

Karpachov argued that money made by the factory would allow the country to address economic and social problems, and pay to cleanup and maintain pits containing processed radioactive material.

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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