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Radioecology of River Shu in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan


The Influence of the Uranium Mining and Extraction Operations on the Environment of the Shu Valley in Southern Kazakhstan and Adjacent Region of Kyrgyzstan

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-WPC/Water Pollution and Control/Environment
  • BIO-RAD/Radiobiology/Biotechnology
  • MED-OTH/Other/Medicine

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Rudneva V Ya

Leading Institute
Kazakh National University / Center of Physical and Chemical Methods of Analysis, Kazakstan, Almaty

Supporting institutes

  • Kyrgyz-Kazakhstan Regional Training and Methodological Center GEOTECHNOLOGY LLC, Kyrgyzstan, Kara-Balta\nInstitute of Physiology of Human and Animals, Kazakstan, Almaty\nVolkovgeologia Joint-Stock Association, Kazakstan, Almaty\nCentral Scientific Research Laboratory of the Joint Stock Company "Kyrgyzskii gornorudnyi combinate", Kyrgyzstan, Kara-Balta


  • Middlesex University / School of Health and Social Sciences, UK, London\nNorwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway, As

Project summary

The current project aims to study, in detail, the impact of past uranium extraction industry activities on the environment and inhabitants in part of the River Shu is Shu valley system. This part was chosen because it straddles the international border between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, with water flowing to the former from extensive mountain streams in the latter. In addition, the valley system in both countries contains numerous uranium extraction / processing sites, waste and spoil heaps, Artesian exploration wells, and populated by humans. The wastes are thought to present a threat to local ground waters and to the water quality in the River Shu, which is an important regional resource. These characteristics make the project study area a priority for investigation. The project will include all radionuclides that present a threat to the environment and man, including uranium and thorium isotopes and their daughters (particularly radium-226, radon-220, radon-222, lead-210 and polonium-210). Heavy metal contamination will also be investigated.

The project will be undertaken by an industrial consortium with considerable current and relevant expertise (VG-Kazatomprom and Kara Balta Complex). This will be headed by a local university (Al-Farabi Kazakh National University) with modern analytical equipment (and experience conducting radioecology studies at the STS – Semipalatinsk Test Site). and a physiology institute (Institute of Physiology, Academy of Science, Kazakhstan). In addition, a small number of key international experts and experts aiding other local, academic projects funded by international agencies (i.e., Government of Norway, the NGO Children with Leukemia, NATO Science for Peace and OECD/UNDP/UNEP agencies participating in the Ferghana Valley project) will assist the project.

Activities undertaken within the project will include:

  • The measurement of terrestrial air kerma, radionuclideand heavy metal concentrations in wastes, soils and sediments, ground and surface waters, local food and biota;
  • The measurement of radon-220 and radon-222 in residential buildings;
  • The preparation of GIS maps of the river catchment and its contamination;
  • The estimation of perceived and real health risks to the local population; calculations of radiation dose to populations and comparison with international standards to determine the suitability of the data collected and the availability of other required data for predicting the future migration of waste components within the river system.
  • The determination of physiological damage to sheep grazing in contaminated areas and potential impact on local agriculture and people eating the sheep.

The planned duration of the project is three years. It will be managed by the consortium in close association with the international experts, most of who will be working in the area on associated projects. All project results will be fed back to the responsible agencies, including health agencies and local inpiduals (as appropriate). They will also be published as ISTC reports and in journals as peer-reviewed publications.

The project results have a great social value for the local people in that scientific based solutions that decrease the negative impact of natural radionuclides and heavy metals on human health and the environment will be found.


The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with their peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.


ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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