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Radiation safety and lack of mechanisms of protection in Uzbekistan

Radiation safety – citizens’ safety and environmental protection from harmful effects of ionizing radiation.

Waste – residue from raw materials, materials, semi-finished products, and other byproducts that were formed during manufacturing or consumption, as well as goods (products) that have lost their consumer properties.

A tailings storage facility or tailing ponds is a complex of special structures and equipment designed for storage or burial of radioactive, toxic and other waste from mineral processing (such waste is called tailings).

Relevance. Central Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions for its susceptibility to environmental, technological and radiation threats. Currently there are 48 tailing ponds that are not maintained in proper condition and carry the danger of radioactive contamination. Moreover, it is worth noting that these radioactive waste sites are located around densely populated and bordering areas which increases the risk of transboundary environmental disaster through polluted air, soil and water resources. The region is prone to earthquakes, floods and landslides with most of the rivers running across borders. An example of such a disaster could be a landslide on the sites of radioactive waste, which may dislodge the toxic waste into the rivers and cause a transboundary disaster. Nuclear waste is hazardous not only for ecology, flora and fauna, but also local population living nearby with those disposal sites. This is combated nowadays with radiation safety regulations, proper access to safety information, and guarantees for protection of people’s rights. Despite this, it remains important to increase people’s legal literacy and educate them on management of disposal sites, as well as raise awareness of the hazards of having radioactive waste disposal sites and thereby engaging people in the waste management processes.

Problems. State bodies develop and implement programs to ensure radiation safety. However, the effectiveness of these programs in practice is unclear. For example, in the Chorkesar Mahalla of the Papskiy district, Namangan region, some parts of the uranium disposal site are not fenced. According to studies from December 18, 2018, local residents complained that shepherds wander into the burial grounds for grazing due to the lack of fencing, which could potentially harm public health and property. Since the locality is far from the district center (30 km), residents themselves provide first aid in case of emergencies, road accidents, although they do not have any special training, the necessary funding or equipment. There is only one Ambulance for 15 thousand residents. The hospital and polyclinic do not meet all the needs of the population. The main part of the population consists of elderly people and women who find it difficult to pass medical examinations in a district or regional center due to the remoteness.

The practical realities obstruct the protection of rights guaranteed by law, such as the guarantee for medical examinations. In addition, the measures that should have been taken after detecting harmful effects following medical examinations have not been established. And it is not clear who carries the treatment expenses.

Legal and Regulatory acts. Currently Uzbekistan has large number of legal acts that directly or indirectly regulate radiation safety. Those are Law on Radiation Safety, Law on Wastes, the Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers on Social Protection Measures of Citizens Living in Territories with a Possibility of Exceeding the Established Basic Limits of Radiation Doses,  Order of the head of the State Inspection Service for Supervising Geological Study of Subsoil, Safety Operation in Industry, Mining and Municipal-Domestic Sectors on Approval of the Regulation on the Management and Long-term Storage of Radioactive Waste in the Republic of Uzbekistan, Law on Nature Protection, Law about Environmental Control, the Regulation of Cabinet of Ministers No.250 On the Procedure for Maintaining the State Cadaster of Landfills and Waste Processing Facilities, Regulation On the Procedure for Developing and Approving Draft Environmental Standards No. 14, Regulation On the Procedure for State Accounting and Control in the Sphere of Waste Management No. 295, Law On the Protection of the Population and Territories from Emergencies of Natural and Technogenic Character.

The problem of the implementation of legal acts, the lack of a mechanism.

As noted earlier, Uzbekistan has developed a large number of laws regulating radiation safety. The legislation provides for measures to ensure radiation safety, for example, Article 12 of the Law of On Radiation Safety states how radiation safety is ensured. However, worth noting that there is no mechanism for implementing this article, i.e. how exactly radiation safety measures are implemented. Moreover, this is not the only law that has problems regarding its implementation mechanism.

Recommendations. The legislator needs to develop a clear mechanism for the implementation of certain provisions established by laws regulating radiation safety. Develop, based on international experience, a Law On Radioactive Waste Management that would define all the necessary mechanisms, powers of state bodies and a unified system for managing radioactive waste, taking into account the legitimate rights and interests of the population.