Chamber to sue state over abrupt green light to Turkey’s first nuclear plant

Chamber to sue state over abrupt green light to Turkey’s first nuclear plant

Aysel Alp ANKARA
Chamber to sue state over abrupt green light to Turkey’s first nuclear plant

Works to clear the area where the plant will be built are already ongoing, although the official start of construction is set for spring 2015. DHA Photo

Turkey’s rebellious Chamber of Turkish Engineers and Architects (TMMOB) is set to open a lawsuit against the Environment Ministry after it hurriedly approved a highly controversial environmental report on Turkey’s first nuclear plant, ending months of legal wrangling a day ahead of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Ankara last month.

The chamber, which has irked the government for filing objections to contentious construction projects across Turkey, said the final decision regarding the plant slated to be built in the eastern Mediterranean locality of Akkuyu was given by the minister himself, without any consultation with a nuclear expert at the decision-making stage.

“Can you imagine that the Environment Ministry, which approved the environmental impact assessment report [regarding the Akkuyu plant], doesn’t even have one nuclear engineer or expert?” said Baran Bozoğlu, the head of the Environmental Engineers’ Chamber.

The plant will be built by the Russian company Rosatom, and with time running out before the scheduled date for the start of construction, mid-2015, many saw in the timing of the report’s approval a message to Putin that the legal woes had ended.

The final committee approving the environmental assessment report has its own department in the ministry. Bozoğlu said the final decision was submitted to Minister İdris Güllüce, who has the last word regarding any project.

He said the decision could not be entrusted as a thorough assessment regarding the processing of nuclear waste was lacking.

One of the most problematic aspects was the assessment on the water needed to cool the four-reactor plant that will be supplied from the Mediterranean before being poured back into the sea.

“The report doesn’t indicate what will become of the nuclear waste during the five to seven years that are necessary until it cools. It doesn’t say anything either about the area that will be affected by radiation in a possible accident. This is why we will object to the ministry’s approval of the environment assessment report,” Bozoğlu said.

The over 3,000-page report was widely revised after being returned three times over the past two years.

Syria and Cyprus to be affected by any accident

Bozoğlu said that according to their own projections, a vast region from Cyprus to Syria could be affected in the event of an accident, deploring the fact that no such data was included in the assessment report.

“They have hurriedly approved the report because Putin was coming when there were so many objections to it. But they eventually gave a go-ahead while they should have answered the criticism and found solutions to concerns,” Bozoğlu said.

The lawsuit also comes at a time when the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry has begun to work on a draft bill that will end TMMOB’s autonomy in an attempt to scrap its authority to open lawsuits against the state and dismiss future headaches.

Energy ties with Russia seemed to enter a golden age during Putin’s last visit a month ago, as the Russian leader proposed a pipeline crossing Turkey to replace South Stream and announced a much-awaited gas discount.

Meanwhile, the plant’s builder, Rosatom, said the plant would have a lifespan of a century, adding that Russia would provide $4 billion from its state budget for the project.

But local activists and politicians slammed the business deal, with main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Aytup Atıcı saying Putin was “bribed” with the environmental report.
Atıcı also hinted that more legal struggles may come, saying he expected lawsuits to be opened at the Constitutional Court to suspend the execution of the environmental impact report.