Geopolitical Research Institute(GRI)/Εταιρεία Γεωπολιτικών Ερευνών(ΕΓΕ)

Παρασκευή, 25 Μαρτίου 2011

The nuclear plants issue in Turkey

The only national issue as old as Turkey’s bid to become a full member of EU is Turkey’s efforts to build a nuclear plant.

Turkey has been trying to do build a plant since the 1960s. Attempts by the government in 1960, 1968, 1974 and 1998 in various provinces such as Sinop and Akkuyu have all failed. Despite lengthy research, detailed preparation efforts and tender processes for such projects, all of them have failed for different reasons. None of these reasons, however, were based on a lack of technology or resources.

In fact, Turkey has rich uranium reserves and has had nuclear experts since the mid-1960s. The country even has the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority, which has never been of much use because Turkey doesn’t have nuclear power. (The General Secretariat of the Atomic Energy Commission was established in Ankara in 1956 by Law No. 6821 as an organization affiliated to the Prime Ministry. In 1982, the commission became the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority under Law No. 2690.)

Just like Turkey’s bid for EU membership, talk about constructing an atomic power plant has been dragging over the years for no apparent reason, given that all governments have been very keen on the idea. It is as if there is an invisible hand that hasn’t allowed Turkey to build a nuclear plant. There are fierce protests over the issue and much of the Turkish public is surprisingly heavily against nuclear power, although that has not stopped past governments from acting against Turkish public opinion, such as in the inundation of the ancient city of Allianoi in western Turkey to make way for a dam.

The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government is also very determined to finally build a plant in Akkuyu. The government declared that Turkey and Russia will be partners. Russia and Turkey signed a contract in May to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant with four reactors, at a cost of about $20 billion after more than a year of negotiations. Russia's Rosatom Corp. will operate the plant in Akkuyu for 60 years, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said Dec. 15, 2010.

Even Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin himself made it public that Russia would build at least two plants in Turkey. The talks took a year to conclude because Turkey wants the nuclear plants to be built by foreigners without costing the government a dime. The AKP government wants the builders to run the plant and win back the costs over the years from the bills paid by the public. Of course, it wasn’t very feasible for the Russians because a plant costs more than 20 billion dollars to build.

After the Russians the government started talks with South Korea for the second plant in Sinop, but those discussions failed. That’s where the Japanese came in to the picture. Just as they financed the construction of the bridge over the Bosphorus, the Japanese agreed to finance the project for the Turkish government as long as a Japanese firm would build it. Turkey aims to conclude a deal with Japan in three months, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said.

Now, however, after the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last week, both of the nuclear plants might be in danger once more. Yıldız said the plant to be built by the Russians was meant to withstand a magnitude-8.0 earthquake and could be increased if necessary.

“We can’t ignore what is happening at the Japanese nuclear plant,” Yıldız said in the interview with the Bloomberg news agency. Earlier Yıldız had said that Turkey wanted to launch an atomic power industry to diversify its energy mix and boost supply to keep up with soaring demand for electricity amid rapid economic growth. It wants to have 20 percent of its electricity come from nuclear power by 2030.

Right now Yıldız doesn’t even want to consider the possibility of not building a nuclear plant, but he might be forced to do so very soon. In Japan 140,000 people have been quarantined for being exposed to radiation. Germany and Switzerland have postponed their decisions to build new nuclear plants and many other countries are deciding to close down all their nuclear plants built before the 1980s.

It seems that Turkey will not be building its first nuclear plant any time soon.

Source : Hurriyet Daily News

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