ALMATY — Power outages across parts of southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have brought into focus an urgent need to upgrade the crumbling, Soviet-era grid these Central Asian countries rely on to keep the lights on.
All three are groping about for solutions, including nuclear power. Kyrgyzstan became the latest to move toward the atom in January when it announced plans to build a small nuclear plant with Russia.
Just days later, a short circuit at Uzbekistan’s Syrdarya thermal power plant demonstrated a big reason why. The fault on Jan. 25 resulted in the shutdown of six of the plant’s units, according to the Kazakhstan Electricity Grid Operating Company (KEGOC).
This meant that Uzbekistan had to raise the amount of energy it took from the unified grid it shares with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, leading to a power surge that overloaded Kazakhstan’s transmission system, plunging the region into a blackout.