Russian President Vladimir Putin and Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev have agreed that Russia will build the first nuclear power plant in the former Soviet republic.

During Putin’s visit to the Uzbek capital of Tashkent on Friday, he and President Mirziyoyev signed the beginning of preliminary work on the construction site of the future factory.

The plant in the Navoi region of central Uzbekistan is estimated to cost $11 billion. It will have two 1,200 megawatt nuclear reactors and is expected to start operating in 2028.

Putin says Moscow is poised to expand military technological ties with the Uzbek government, including possible joint arms production in the former Soviet republic.

Mirziyoyev said Russian and Uzbek companies could also expand their cooperation in the textile and fertilizer industries and sell the products internationally.

The plant, to be largely financed by a soft loan from Russia, will allow Uzbekistan to use more of its natural gas for other purposes such as chemicals production or exports.

Today, most electric power in Uzbekistan is generated by gas turbines, but the Central Asian, formerly Soviet republic says it wants to use its large natural gas reserves more efficiently and extract more added value from them.

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Tashkent signed agreements with Gazprom and several other Russian companies aimed at exploration and development of a few new hydrocarbon deposits as well as building a new chemical plant.

Producing the same amount of energy as a nuclear power plant using modern gas turbines would consume over 3.5 billion cubic metres of gas a year, according to Jurabek Mirzamahmudov, head of Uzbekistan’s nuclear energy agency UzAtom.

“This is feedstock for one petrochemicals plant which could produce half a million tonnes of polymers,” he told reporters this week.

Uzbekistan also exports gas to Russia and China.

Although fuel will make up less than a tenth of the final energy cost, it could also be made cheaper by using a tolling scheme where Uzbek-mined uranium would be processed by Russia, officials say.

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