NATO launches rocket fuel oxidiser destruction project in Uzbekistan
On 26 November, a NATO-sponsored project to destroy 1,100 tonnes of mélange was launched in Uzbekistan. This highly toxic substance, a rocket fuel oxidiser that was used during the Soviet era, has been kept in deteriorating storage conditions, posing a risk to the environment and local population.
The clean-up process, by means of the NATO mobile plant already used succesfully in Azerbaijan, is expected to be completed in June 2010. The NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme will cover operational costs, while the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA) will operate the plant in Uzbekistan together with a Turkish company and specially trained local experts. The Uzbek Government is supplying the necessary chemicals, infrastructure and logistic support.
The mobile plant was built three years ago, with the financial support of the NATO SPS Programme and under NAMSA’s operational oversight. It converted more than 1,300 tonnes of mélange in Azerbaijan into a non-hazardous, low-grade fertilizer. For this earlier project, NATO invested 2,200,000 euros to construct, transport, assemble and operate the plant, as well as to provide technical personnel.
The launch of the project was marked by an official ribbon-cutting ceremony on 26 November at the military base of Oqtosh, in the Uzbek province of Samarkand.
Uzbek Defence Minister Kabul Berdiyev and SPS Director of Projects Dr. Chris De Wispelaere presided over the opening ceremony, highlighting the importance of the project for environmental and human security and presenting it as a major step forward for NATO-Uzbekistan cooperation.
“This project is an example of NATO’s will to set up concrete cooperative actions with its Partner nations,” said Dr. De Wispelaere. He stressed NATO’s desire to cooperate with countries in Central Asia, a region that has taken on greater significance for security challenges of the 21st century.
Minister Berdiyev thanked NATO for its contribution and for endorsing the project, which he said is a perfect illustration of good cooperation in laying the ground for other mutually beneficial projects between NATO and Uzbekistan.
Following the ceremony, participants visited the mélange destruction plant and were briefed by the Turkish company operating the plant, which has already converted over 100 tonnes of mélange.
The day before the opening, a workshop on mélange was organized in Tashkent to inform the public, local media, scientists, experts and representatives of diplomatic missions in Tashkent.