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Conducting an integrated environmental impact assessment and feasibility study for the management and remediation of damaged ecological system of uranium production legacy sites

Conducting an integrated environmental impact assessment and feasibility study for the management and remediation of damaged ecological system of uranium production legacy sites


Uranium production in Central Asian countries between 1944 and 1995 has left behind a huge legacy of uranium mining and processing wastes and abandoned conventional uranium mines. After 1995 most of the conventional uranium mines were closed. The European Commission first addressed the problem of legacy uranium mining in 1995, with a project that covered uranium mines and mills in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, within the frame of the TACIS nuclear safety assistance programme. Other studies were eventually carried out, which focussed on specific sites or areas (i.e. a preliminary assessment of the uranium production legacy sites in Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries carried out within the IAEA Regional Technical Cooperation Project RER/9/086 from 2005 to 2008, and other studies by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) supported by the European Commission (EC), Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the World Bank (WB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). As a result of these studies, and based upon a preliminary qualitative risk assessment of the legacy sites it was possible to identify the priority sites requiring remediation. The legacy sites of Charkesar and Yangiabad in the Republic of Uzbekistan are among the identified priority sites of Central Asia.
The uranium deposit of Charkesar is located at the foothills of the Kuraminskiy Range, in the North-West part of the densely populated Ferghana Valley. There are two abandoned mine sites at this ore deposit: Charkesar-1 and Charkesar-2. Both sites are partly decommissioned and now closed.
There are five closed uranium mines in the area of Yangiabad, with twenty-nine waste rock dumps in the vicinity of the mine gallery which have not, as yet, been rehabilitated. Remediation activities are planned. A further two rock dumps located near the Yangiabad village have been closed and are partially remediated.
The objective of this project was to conduct an environmental impact assessment and feasibility study, for the safe management and remediation activities for the Charkesar and Yangiabad sites. The environmental impact assessment and the feasibility study will be the basis for subsequent decision making regarding remediation of the sites. The project consisted of an initial analysis of existing data, identification of data gaps, recommended site characterization activities to fill data gaps, proposed remediation concepts and alternatives, establishment of site-specific monitoring systems for initial characterizations and long-term surveillance as well as time schedule and cost estimates.
In order to achieve the set objectives, the following project activities had to be carried out:
–      A detailed description and characterization of the current geological, physical, chemical and radiological status of both sites
–      A thorough integrated analysis of alternative remediation activities of both sites, including a cost estimation and a safety analysis
–      The determination of significant social, safety and environmental a) positive and negative impacts, b) direct and indirect impacts, and c) immediate, short and long-term impacts of the proposed remediation activities
–      Management plan to mitigate the negative impacts of the remediation works
–      Monitoring plan for both sites
–      Assessment of further possible needs for technical assistance for successful implementation of the actual remediation projects 
–      The involvement of local authorities, the population and other organisations present at the sites,
–      The identification of policy and institutional needs for implementing the recommendations issued in the frame of the project
The project started on 1 September 2013 and was successfully completed after an extension of three months on November 30, 2015. It was implemented by the consortium WISUTEC GmbH, Wismut GmbH, C&E GmbH and Facilia AB, led by WISUTEC. The Beneficiary was the Government of Uzbekistan, represented by the State Inspectorate for Safety in Industry and Mining (SISIM), the State Committee for Nature Protection (SCNP), the Ministry of Health and the State Committee for Geology and Mineral Resources (SCGMR).
The project implementation was divided into 11 tasks:
–      Task 1         Preparations, Planning and Organisation of Kick-off Meeting
–      Task 2         Identification national legislative and regulatory framework applicable to remediation of uranium mining and milling
–      Task 3         Assessment of the current status of the Charkesar and the Yangiabad site
–      Task 4         Assessment of the impacts and risks of each site
–      Task 5         Definition and selection of remediation strategies
–      Task 6         Remediation plans for the sites of Charkesar and Yangiabad: Feasibility Study
–      Task 7         Development of environmental monitoring and maintenance plans
–      Task 8         Environmental Impact Assessment
–      Task 9         Public consultation and participation. Involvement of relevant governmental agencies and local stakeholders
–      Task 10       Identification of policy and institutional needs to implement environmental assessment recommendations
–      Task 11       Final report. Dissemination of the results
The project kick-off meeting was held in Tashkent on 31 October 2013.
The technical part of the project started in October 2013 with Task 2, the analysis of the legislative and regulatory framework in Uzbekistan. The Contractor analysed the Uzbek legal and regulatory framework in the aspects that concern the remediation of uranium production legacy sites (including the relevant Sanitary Instructions), and compared it with accepted international regulations and standards. The outcomes included a thorough understanding of the legal and regulatory framework of Uzbekistan according to which the project deliverables had to be developed. Some gaps and discrepancies with respect to international best practice were also identified but were relatively minor.
The next project phase (Task 3) included the assessment of the status of both sites by the use of engineering surveys, sampling and measuring, field inspections, review of existing documents, etc., with the aim of having a complete, sound description of the status of the sites and the extent and effectiveness of the already carried out remediation activities.
The data review and investigations carried out revealed a significant degradation of the local socio-economic and natural conditions as a consequence of previous uranium mining activities and remaining legacies.
It was found that at the Charkesar-2 site remediation works were already under way carried out under the guidance of Goskomprirody (Uzbek Environmental Agency). These have resulted in a reduction of the local radiation level. However, it was not possible for the contractor to access the detailed plans of the ongoing remediation and, therefore, this site had to be excluded from the next tasks of the project.
In Yangiabad the present state of the legacy sites is hampering the development of sports and tourism activities.
In summary the situation at Charkesar and Yangiabad can be characterised as follows:
·                    Significant pollution of all kinds of mine effluents with radionuclides and arsenic
·                    Impact of mine effluents on the quality of the surface water bodies is not measurable except directly at the discharge points into the rivers
·                    Most of the un-rehabilitated waste rock dumps and mining sites show direct gamma radiation levels significantly exceeding the natural background
·                    Outdoor radon monitoring revealed increased concentration in the immediate vicinity of the Alatanga and Kattasay mining sites with open adits, shafts and un-covered waste rock dumps but not inside Charkesar Village and in the town of Yangiabad, where the measured values indicated natural background level
·                    Dust with increased specific activities of radionuclides is not a concern as long as waste rock is not moved (as would be the case during construction/remediation works)
·                    A matter of concern and high risk to the public in terms of community safety is related to open adits and sinkholes from collapsed underground mine workings because of their very high accident potential; it is the case in Charkesar-1 and in Yangiabad
·                    The former ore beneficiation plant Rudny Dvor represents a site, where special attention is necessary because of its location in the town
·                    In Charkesar the study on cultural heritage ended without findings; in difference the works in the mining sites of Yangiabad revealed at several places tracks of pre-historic human activities to be protected
·                    Present economy of Charkesar and Yangiabad are dominated by small scale pasture, horticulture and handicraft; big part of the village residents have to go for work to the bigger cities of Uzbekistan or abroad. In Yangiabad increasingly tourism plays a role and creates new jobs and income.
The gathered information provided a sound basis for the execution of the next tasks of the project.
As the next step (Task 4) a comprehensive assessment of the radiological, chemical and geo-technical risks of the current situation was carried out for both sites that need to be remediated: Yangiabad and Charkesar-1.
The main conclusions from these risk assessments for the current situation at the sites are as follows:

  • The exposure doses from staying at the waste dumps and other contaminated areas are below the selected reference level of 1 mSv/year.
  • On the other hand, the estimates of radiological and chemical impacts from the use of different water sources show values above the reference levels of 1 mSv/a criterion and of 0.1 mSv/a for drinking water. This was shown both by the hazard analysis and the realistic dose assessments. Of special concern is the use of mine waters for drinking and irrigation of garden plots, which seems to be commonly practiced at some sites. The water analysis showed considerably elevated concentrations of heavy metals (especially uranium) at some (not all) mine effluents. It is therefore recommended, that remedial actions are considered in order to reduce the magnitude of the radiological and chemical impacts from the use of mine water.
  • The geo-mechanical risk assessment showed that many mine openings (shafts, adits, sinkholes) pose high risk to the public in general and especially to tourists (curiosity). Only some of the adits and sinkholes were rated with medium or low risk due to their remote location. Single waste rock dumps pose an elevated risk to the environment due to flowing seepage water, which may cause contamination spreading and erosion. Waste rock dumps at the river banks could have medium risk due to possible erosion processes and most of the waste rock dumps in the mountainous area have only low geo-mechanical risk. The old ruinous processing facilities pose high risk to the public.

In result of the dedicated risk assessment a set of applicable technical rehabilitation measures were developed for different groups of objects (Task 5). At least 3 remediation options (including the 'do nothing' option) were examined for each object. Their costs and benefits were estimated and compared by a Multi-Attribute Utility Analysis (MAUA). This resulted in a proposal of best remediation measures, finally evaluated in Feasibility Studies for both sites that were agreed with and endorsed by the Uzbek Beneficiaries to have a sound basis for the following technical planning (Task 6) and the environmental impact assessment (EIA) (Task 8).
The following principal remediation measures were proposed:
·                    Demolishing of former processing site Rudny Dvor and former loading area in Alatanga site and covering with soil material
·                    Partial relocation and concentration of contaminated waste rock and covering with soil material at Kattasay site
·                    Closure and safeguarding of open shafts with reinforced concrete plates, open adits with brick or concrete walls and of sinkholes with concrete plugs
·                    Preventing access to mine water
·                    River bed strengthening
·                    Hazard signs at all mine areas.
The technical planning (Task 6) consists of

  • A detailed design including “Explanatory Notes” of the construction works with all detailed descriptions of planned activities,
  • The “Technical Specifications” as basis of later tendering of the planned remediation measures and
  • a detailed cost estimation.

The technical planning was elaborated according to the Uzbek construction standards with special codes for construction works valid in Uzbekistan.
The calculated net project costs (without value added tax) are as follows:

  • Approx. 6,5 million EUR for all sites in Yangiabad
  • Approx. 600 thousand EUR for Charkesar-1. 

Detailed monitoring activities and mitigation measures during and after remediation of the Yangiabad and Charkesar site were determined (Task 7).
Key elements of the post-remedial monitoring activities for the remediated sites are:

  • Control of the stability of closure measures at shafts, adits and sinkholes
  • Control of the integrity and functionality of technical structures (cover, riverbed protection, water derivation system) and maintenance work to preserve the integrity for the long-term
  • Control that no material is taken from the site
  • Control of mine hazard signs
  • Control of the quality of discharge water as a matter of precaution

The contractor concluded that there is no need for extensive long-term environmental monitoring.
By integration of the majority of the output of the previous tasks, as the next step (Task 8) an Environmental Impact Assessment for each of the sites of Charkesar and Yangiabad was prepared in compliance with Uzbek standards and agreed with the Uzbek authorities.
The potential impact during remediation works and the management of mitigation measures were proposed. In general, the degree of environmental and social impacts is very low due to the simple civil engineering measures that are proposed.
Public consultation and participation, involvement of relevant governmental agencies and local stakeholders (Task 9) were a permanent subject of all activities carried out within the project. Each single task was performed in close contact with the Beneficiaries and local partners. Due to the Uzbek legislation restrictions, it was not possible to perform a direct involvement of NGOs and representatives of the local population as stakeholders in the preparation of remediation options and related EIA. Instead all the respective details had to be discussed and clarified with the different responsible entities of the Beneficiary.
The main results of the review the authority and capability of the institutions at local, regional and national levels to oversight the remediation works and the long term surveillance, inspection and monitoring plans (Task10), were recommendations formulated on a broad range of fields where improvements could be made with a view to future remediation projects, such as the following:

  • Strengthening of the role of individual institutions
  • Improvements and further development of the policy, legal, regulatory and guidance level
  • Training programmes for the following target audiences:
  • Monitoring and analytical work
  • Environment and radiation safety
  • Mining, technical and work safety
  • Structure and administration
  • Equipment for field and laboratory measurements and analytics
  • Capabilities and training programmes
  • Record management and software
  • Capabilities in the field of communication and public participation (also included in recommended training modules).

The preparation of technical specifications for the purchase of the needed laboratory equipment for is part of the activities included in INSC project REG4.01/10.
All the project deliverables have been peer reviewed by a team of independent international experts set-up by IAEA.

General Information

Conducting an integrated environmental impact assessment and feasibility study for the management and remediation of damaged ecological system of uranium production legacy sites
€ 1.386.411,20
Budget year: 
Meta geographical zone: 
Central Asia
Types of activities: 
Waste Management
WDS - Waste, Decommissioning and Safeguards
Duration (months): 
Contracting authority: 
European Commission
Partner (Beneficiary): 
Government of Uzbekistan
Wisutec Umwelttechnik
CRIS number: 
Project reference: 
Decision number: 
Method of procurement: 
Service contracts - International Restricted Procedure with prior publication
Signature date: 
Effective contract date: 
Contract end date: 
Closure date: