The Nurek Dam was constructed by the Soviet Union between the years of 1961 and 1980. It is uniquely constructed, with a central core of cement forming an impermeable barrier within a 300 m (980 ft)-high rock and earth fill construction. The volume of the mound is 54 million m³. The dam includes nine hydroelectric generating units, the first commissioned in 1972 and the last in 1979.
The dam is located in a deep gorge along the Vakhsh River in western Tajikistan, about 75 km (47 mi) east of the nation's capital of Dushanbe. A town near the dam, also called Nurek, houses engineers and other workers employed at the dam's power plant.
A total of nine hydroelectric turbines are installed in the Nurek Dam. Originally having a generating capacity of 300 megawatts each (2.7 gigawatts total), they have since been redesigned and retrofitted such that they now combine to produce 3.0 gigawatts. As of 1994, this formed most of the nation's 4.0 gigawatt hydroelectric generating capacity, which was adequate to meet 98% of the nation's electricity needs.
The reservoir formed by the Nurek Dam, known simply as Nurek, is the largest reservoir in Tajikistan with a capacity of 10.5 km³. The reservoir is over 70 km (40 mi) in length, and has a surface area of 98 km² (38 sq mi). The reservoir fuels the hydroelectric plant located within the dam, and stored water is also used for irrigation of local agricultural land. Irrigation water is transported 14 kilometers through the Dangara irrigation tunnel and is used to irrigate about 700 km² (300 sq mi) of farmland. It is suspected that the reservoir may be causing induced seismicity.