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Science and Technology in Kazakhstan: Current Status and Future Prospects
payoff from expanded R&D efforts in these and other fields should be carefully considered.
2. Committee members were in Karaganda the day following a deep underground methane explosion that killed about 50 coal miners near the city. This accident was a tragic reminder of the importance of using the latest technologies to ensure the safety of miners in a country that is heavily dependent on coal to fuel its power plants. The committee is unaware of the specific technologies that are currently used in the coal mines of Kazakhstan. But given the dangers associated with coal mining and the economic importance of coal, coal mining safety should be carefully evaluated to determine whether sufficient priority is being given to ensuring that available technologies and well-demonstrated methods are being adequately used to reduce the likelihood of accidents. These approaches include not only technologies directly linked to the mining process (e.g., limestone dusting of walls, spraying of mine faces to reduce coal dust) but also techniques to ensure continuous and sufficient airflow, clearly marked and available exit routes, and the availability of safety equipment underground.
3. From the geographical and meteorological points of view, Kazakhstan seems to be an appropriate country to develop wind power in some regions. Wind power cannot compete economically with power from coal that feeds into large electrical grids, even though there would be environmental advantages. In some circumstances wind power may have economic advantages in serving small local markets. Kazakhstani specialists have proposed that former defense-oriented machine plants in the country that are no longer being used to capacity may be able to produce components of wind turbines, perhaps in cooperation with Western companies, at relatively low cost. A few Kazakhstani specialists and their international partners that are currently supported through the World Bank’s Global Environmental Facility have ambitious plans to develop wind power. The costs and technical feasibility of their plans should be carefully examined. A few economic success stories could certainly increase interest in wind energy—in Kazakhstan and elsewhere.27
4. Energy conservation apparently has not been high on the government’s agenda. However, as has been shown in the United States and elsewhere, easy-to-implement steps—whether required by regulation or adopted by consumers simply to save money—might have significant impacts in reducing energy usage. On the technological front, improved insulation in buildings, standards that require efficient heating and air-conditioning systems, and glass that transmits light but reduces transmission of heat are examples of energy-saving approaches that are proving effective. While the relevant financial, organizational, and social conditions are undoubtedly unique in Kazakhstan, this topic deserves greater attention by both the policy and technical communities.
Project document: Kazakhstan Windpower Market Development Initiative, United Nations Development Programme and Global Environmental Facility, KAZ/02, 2003-2006, obtained from the World Bank, July 2006.