Risks of Turkey model in nuclear
The construction of the power plant in the southern town of Akkuyu in the province of Mersin will start next year.
Remember that Russia and Turkey signed a deal in May 2010 for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Akkuyu composed of four units each with a power of 1,200 megawatts. According to the deal, Russian state atomic energy agency Rosatom will manage the plant. The first unit of the power plant will become active in 2019.
The remaining three units will come online later at certain intervals.
Turkey’s decision to step into the nuclear arena at a time when countries such as Germany and Switzerland have decided to abandon nuclear totally after the Fukushima disaster has not been adequately debated here.
Let alone debating, the transformation process into nuclear energy is not sufficiently transparent.
We know from opinion polls that Greenpeace carried out this year after the Fukushima accident that 64 percent of the Turkish public is against nuclear power. Eighty-five percent of the public does not want to live beside a nuclear power plant.
In the face of these figures, no official, including Energy Minister Taner Yıldız, has made a satisfactory statement about the virtues of nuclear energy or why it should be preferred.
A report prepared by the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM) titled “Turkey Model in Transformation to Nuclear Energy” fills an important gap in that sense. As EDAM head Sinan Ülgen pointed out, the aim of the report is to reveal the pros and cons of the Akkuyu Project.
In other words, has Turkey taken a right or wrong decision while it is about to take a step toward nuclear power? What are the risks of this power plant and how would these risks be managed? Also, the report aims to search for answers to such questions as whether the price Turkey will be paying to the Russians is low or high.
The report has five separate sections that are penned by Ülgen, Professor İlhan Or from Bosphorus University, Professor Hasan Saygın from Istanbul Aydın University, Associate Professor Gökhan Kumbaroğlu from Bosphorus University and Associate Professor İzak Atiyas from Sabancı University.
Let’s start from the economic dimension, which is its price. According to the EDAM report, the electricity Turkey has agreed to buy at a price of 12.35 US cents/KwH from the Russians for 15 years (between 2020 and 2035), is quite a low price. Kumbaroğlu, who has written that part of the report, openly said, “If I were the managing firm, I would not want to sell it at this price.”
There is another catch at the economic dimension. After the sale agreement that covers 15 years comes to an end, 20 percent of the net profit of the power plant will be given to the Turkish side. Consequently, the report states Akkuyu has advantages for Turkey from the economic angle.
Let’s look at the other side of the coin now. The biggest danger is what the former member of Turkish Atomic Energy Authority (TAEK) Professor Hasan Saygın has pointed out: The nuclear reactor VVER 1200 the Russians are going to build in Akkuyu has not been tried anywhere.
“Everything about this model is on paper. Its technology and security systems have not been tried. We have seen in Fukushima that scenarios are not enough. The height of tsunami waves were calculated as five meters, they came as high as nine meters,” he said.
Turkey is a country that does not have “security culture.”
We have all seen how the Bayram Hotel collapsed when Van shook for the second time; a building which was categorized as “sturdy” after the first quake.
We also lack human resources who control security.
In this case, the Akkuyu plant may be as economically advantageous as one likes, but the risks will sweep these advantages away.