Having studied and analyzed President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s state-of-the-nation address, the Economic course of a Just Kazakhstan, I would like to note the initiative to hold a referendum regarding the construction of a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan.
I personally think that there is no doubt that organizing a national referendum on whether to build a nuclear power plant in the country is a positive decision from the perspective of governance, democracy, and responsible policy implementation. The referendum will allow the public opinion to be taken into account.
At the same time, as an expert in the field of climate change, I would like to note the following. To limit the impacts of climate change, the world must rapidly reduce its dependence on fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear energy is low-carbon and can be deployed on a large scale at the timescale required, supplying the world with clean, reliable, and affordable electricity. Nuclear power plants produce no greenhouse gas emissions during operation, and over the course of its life-cycle, nuclear produces about the same amount of carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions per unit of electricity as wind, and one-third of the emissions per unit of electricity when compared with solar.
Moreover, if we are talking about ESG on April 21, 2021, the European Commission made a number of amendments to the EU Taxonomy Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2020/852), which entered into force in July 2020, signaling the inclusion of nuclear energy in the taxonomy. However, technical safety issues require special attention in this context. There may be very strong public concerns about any nuclear facilities.
I am convinced that the Kazakh public, and above all experts and specialists, will approach the final decision on the construction of a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan with full responsibility, carefully analyzing all possible risks and benefits. In this sense, it could be useful to study the experiences of the construction of the Croatian-Slovenian nuclear power plant Krško.
The author is Maria Pujo Tadić, an international expert on climate change, politics and ESG, the President of the International Institute for Climate Action.