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Turkey’s Akkuyu nuclear station a cause for anxiety in the Eastern Mediterranean

Turkey’s Akkuyu nuclear power plant is a cause of concern  August 15, 2021  Dr Yiorghos Leventis

Turkey is an energy hungry economy. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) assessment of Turkey’s energy needs in 2020, the country currently imports approximately 72 per cent of its energy demand.

To address the problem of increasing domestic energy demand, Ankara has been actively pursuing nuclear energy to lessen its high dependency on energy imports. Consequently, in May 2010, Russia and Turkey signed a cooperation agreement, under which Rosatom State Cooperation has since been constructing the Akkuyu  nuclear power plant (NPP). This NPP will eventually contain four reactors with a combined capacity of 4800 MW. Other nuclear power projects in Sinop, Black Sea region and the Eastern Thrace region remain in the planning stages.

Construction of the Akkuyu NPP begun in December 2017. Its final cost is expected to rise to over 20 billion USD – roughly equivalent to the size of Cyprus’ economic output in 2020. The first reactor is expected to become operational in 2023, the year that marks the centenary anniversary of the Republic of Turkey. No doubt, Erdogan’s government is planning festivities for this significant event, to boost its plunging popularity.

Despite serious concerns about the safety of the Akkuyu NPP, located as it is, in the high seismic activity region of Mersin, construction continues. Every consecutive year in the following three years (2024-26) will see a new reactor coming into operation.

The first controversy over the impact of this huge nuclear power project on the environment appeared already six years ago: on January 12, 2015, it was reported that the signatures of specialists on a Turkish government-sanctioned environmental impact report had been forged. The appointed specialists had resigned six months prior to its submission, and the contracting company had then made unilateral changes to the report. Naturally so, this revelation sparked protest within the Turkish Cypriot community. The proximity of the prospective Akkuyu nuclear power plant to our island could not be lightheartedly ignored. This powerful NPP will operate at about 110 kms from Nicosia. In the context of an unexpected nuclear accident caused by an earthquake or otherwise, north or south Cyprus becomes immaterial. A fatal nuclear accident carries the danger of overwhelming both parts of the island.

In this respect, it is vital that the leaderships of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots stand in unison: the Eastern Mediterranean environment and its protection is a common cause. More so as Ankara exhibits a mixed approach, to say the least, towards international legal instruments on nuclear safety: Whereas Turkey signed up to the Convention on Nuclear Safety which entered into force October 24, 1996, it has not done the same with the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management which entered into force June 18, 2001.

Dr Yiorghos Leventis is director of the International Security Forum:

August 16, 2021 Posted by | safety, Turkey | Leave a comment

Turkey’s nuclear power plant could prove irresistible to terrorists

Turkey’s nuclear power plant could prove irresistible to terrorists

A tempting target — Beyond Nuclear International

 A Tempting target  Beyond Nuclear International

Accurate missiles and drones could knock down critical electrical supply lines to Turkey’s nuclear reactor and destroy its emergency generators, nuclear control rooms, reactor containment buildings, and spent reactor fuel buildings.

By Henry Sokolski and John Spacapan

Although it got little attention from the U.S. media, an explosion late last month at a Turkish nuclear power plant construction site raised eyebrows in Turkey. It should raise eyebrows in America, too. Donald Trump pushed nuclear exports to the region when he was president. His replacement, Joe Biden, should not. The recent Turkish explosion clarifies why: nuclear plants in unstable regions are tempting targets that could explode, and not by accident.

The blast injured at least two people and caused serious damage to homes in the area. The Russian-Turkish nuclear construction firm, Akkuyu Nuclear Inc., claims the explosion took place when a subcontractor carried out “planned drilling and blasting.” So far, Ankara has kept mum on the story.

Angry local officials and opposition party leaders, though, aren’t buying the construction firm’s account. A member of the leading political opposition, the Republican People’s Party, said locals are losing sleep “thinking about the possibility of more blasts that might happen in the future when the nuclear power plant starts to function.” Meanwhile, the local governor has ordered a special police team to investigate the incident and to “hold those responsible to account.” 

Whether or not the explosion was planned, the Republican People’s Party leaders, Turkish citizens, and local Akkuyu politicians worry about reactor accidents. The Akkuyu plant sits on a major plate tectonic fault line. Besides natural accidents, they should worry about another threat—terrorist and proxy missile and drone attacks. Certainly, if government officials ignore local opposition to the nuclear project, then they will have to worry that the PKK (a Kurdish terrorist group that seeks an autonomous state in southeastern Turkey) might hold the Turkish government hostage by threatening to strike the plant.

Nearby, last July, the Azerbaijani defense ministry’s spokesman did precisely that, publicly threatening to use precise Azeri missiles to strike Armenia’s Metsamor nuclear power plant. It was shortly after this threat was made that Russian president Vladimir Putin called Turkish president Recep Erdogan to restrain Azerbaijan’s military. The Iranians and their proxies also have toyed with attacking reactors. Hezbollah, armed with Iranian-made rockets, has threatened to strike Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor.

Another Iranian proxy, the al-Houthi group in Yemen, claimed that they fired a missileat the UAE’s Barakah nuclear power plant, which it failed to hit. They claim they intend to try again. 

Finally, if Iran chose to give similar missiles to militias such as the Syrian National Defense Forces, who are supportive of the Assad regime in Syria (a bitter enemy of Turkey), similar threats might be made against Akkuyu.

Then, there is the PKK, which has attacked Turkish soldiers and military bases with sophisticated explosive drones. In one attack, the PKK blew up a Turkish ammunition dump, killing seven Turkish soldiers and wounding dozens more.  Security analysts contend the PKK’s newer drones can travel sixty miles at fast enough speeds to outwit Turkish military jamming technology. They are now reportedly designing a new generation. Such drones have to be considered a future threat against Turkey’s nuclear plant.

March 15, 2021 Posted by | safety, Turkey | Leave a comment

Turkey’s nuclear ambitions bring fears of a ”new Chernobyl” in the region


March 13, 2021 Posted by | safety, Turkey | Leave a comment

Anxieties over Turkey’s new Russian-backed nuclear plants

Turkey’s nuclear power dilemma, Turkey’s first Russia-backed nuclear plant has raised issues around its safety and potential for use in building nuclear weapons.  Al Jazeera, By Sinem Koseoglu. 10 Mar 2021

Istanbul, Turkey – Turkish and Russian officials laid the foundation for the third reactor of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant Akkuyu in the southern coastal city of Mersin on Wednesday.

The plant’s first reactor unit is expected to be operational in 2023, the centenary of the Turkish Republic, and the remaining units in 2026.

The co-construction of the Akkuyu plant started in April 2018, eight years after the two countries signed an intergovernmental agreement.

The project is owned by the Russian energy company Rosatom while the Turkish Akkuyu is the license owner and the local operator.

Once completed, the plant is expected to produce 35 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually, about 10 percent of Turkey’s total electricity supply. The service life will last 50 years.

The facility will launch Turkey into the ”league of nuclear energy countries”, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, hailing it as a “symbol of Turkish-Russian cooperation”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who spoke at the event via video-conference from Moscow, called it a “truly flagship project”.

Akkuyu is the only nuclear power facility under construction in Turkey but a second project in the Black Sea province of Sinop is expected to kick off this year, reports suggest, if Ankara can find a new partner after Japan’s Mitsubishi pulled out last year.

The project was agreed on by the Japanese and Turkish governments in 2013. A consortium led by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries conducted a feasibility study until March for the construction of a 4,500-megawatt plant in Sinop.

A senior energy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera the Turkish government is also considering a third nuclear plant with four reactors in the country’s northwest. Turkey’s ultimate goal is not building a nuclear weapon but diversity in energy resources, he said.

Russian dependency?

Since the Akkuyu project was signed, proponents of nuclear energy in Turkey have argued it would limit Turkey’s dependency on foreign energy suppliers. They also underline it is clean energy.  [clean???]

However, some international experts think differently.   Henry D Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, DC, said Akkuyu’s financing model could further Ankara’s dependency on Russia, a major energy provider to Turkey. The project is fully financed by Moscow.

Sokolski said it is an intensive capital investment and questioned why Turkey frontloads such debt while alternative and cheaper energy resources are coming down the pipeline.

Could Akkutu be a target?

Turkey is not the only country seeking nuclear energy in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia and Jordan are still considering establishing nuclear power plants. Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are in on it, while Israel is long believed to have a stockpile of nuclear weapons and Iran has the capacity to develop them.

Sokolski warned Turkey about the regional challenges of entering the fray. “Your neighbourhood is dangerous. People are fighting. Nuclear reactors in a shooting war can be targets.”

He said missiles and drones could knock out critical electrical supply lines to a reactor and destroy emergency generators, nuclear control rooms, reactor containment buildings, and spent reactor fuel buildings.

“These kinds of strikes can make people more anxious and result in radiological releases, like Chernobyl or worse,” said Sokolski.

Turkey has waged a war against the PKK, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party listed as a “terrorist” organisation by the United States, the European Union, and Turkey, for decades in a conflict that has killed an estimated 40,000 people.

News reports have suggested the armed group has camps in northern Iraq where armed drones are being developed.

Turkey is also embroiled in conflicts in Syria and the eastern Mediterranean, while the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen have targetted Saudi and Emirati targets with its missiles and drones. Armed groups such as the Syrian National Defence Forces, which is supportive of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, could mimic such attacks, said Sokolski.

Turkey has waged a war against the PKK, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party listed as a “terrorist” organisation by the United States, the European Union, and Turkey, for decades in a conflict that has killed an estimated 40,000 people.

News reports have suggested the armed group has camps in northern Iraq where armed drones are being developed.

Turkey is also embroiled in conflicts in Syria and the eastern Mediterranean, while the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels in Yemen have targetted Saudi and Emirati targets with its missiles and drones. Armed groups such as the Syrian National Defence Forces, which is supportive of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, could mimic such attacks, said Sokolski.

Atomic weapon suspicions

Despite Turkey’s claims the plant will only be used to diversify energy resources, some have suggested Ankara may have plans to enrich uranium.

Turkey and nuclear-armed Pakistan have long had military cooperation agreements that were recently intensified, with some news reports suggesting Islamabad may be covertly supporting a nuclear weapons programme.

Military cooperation deals have been signed earlier this year with Kazakhstan, a country providing at least 35 percent of the world’s uranium…….

March 11, 2021 Posted by | politics, Turkey | Leave a comment

Dust with French nuclear test residue threatens Turkey

March 4, 2021 Posted by | environment, France, radiation, Turkey | Leave a comment

Turkey’s unfinished nuclear plant already redundant

Critics say Turkey’s unfinished nuclear plant already redundant
Turkey’s power plant building spree has resulted in an enormous idle capacity but the construction of new plants continues at the expense of taxpayers despite the country’s bruising economic woes. Al-Monitor      Mustafa Sonmez  Dec 15, 2020

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), in power for 18 years, is under increasing fire for poorly planned, prodigal investments whose long-term financial fallout is coming into sharper relief as the country grapples with severe economic woes. Standing out among the most dubious investments is a series of power plants, including a nuclear energy plant still under construction, that have created an idle capacity threatening to haunt public finances for years.

The miscalculations date back to the AKP’s early years in power, when the Turkish economy — fresh from an IMF-backed overhaul — enjoyed unprecedented inflows of foreign capital that stimulated economic growth of up to 7% per year. The AKP’s economic credentials thrived, translating to lasting political gains.  The government encouraged construction as the main driver of growth, even if it relied almost entirely on the continued flow of foreign funds. While the country’s energy consumption grew its power production lagged behind and required larger imports of gas, oil and even coal to power electricity plants.

…….The government-backed investment frenzy rested on the assumption that the economy would sustain its growth pace of 6-7% per year. This belief, however, was not justified. Amid ups and downs since 2014, the economy has slowed and so has its energy demand. Consumption has increased only 44% over the past decade, according to official figures, meaning that a significant capacity is now idle while the investments continue to gulp bulky public funds and many of them have caused lasting environmental damage.

………Chief among the ongoing projects is the nuclear power plant that Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy company Rosatom is building in Akkuyu, on Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast, under an intergovernmental agreement signed in 2010. The facility, scheduled to become operational in 2023, will be the country’s first nuclear power plant, with a capacity of 4,800 megawatts. The build-operate-transfer project has been granted a 49-year production license that expires in June 2066.

Under the deal, the Russians assumed the financing of the project, estimated to cost $20 billion, while the Turkish government provided the land free of charge and promised to purchase 70% of the plant’s electricity production for 15 years at the price of 12.35 cents/kWh. The estimate was that the cost of the 15-year purchase guarantee would total 57 billion liras, but amid the dramatic deprecation of the currency since 2018, the sum has already swelled to 140 billion liras.

Even before the currency turmoil, the project risked delays due to financing snags. Whether it could be finished on time or whether the builders and Ankara could now face additional costs remains to be seen. But given the country’s energy consumption trend, one thing is already clear: the project was a gross, prodigal misstep economically, not to mention the safety and environmental concerns over the plant’s location in an earthquake-prone area.

Ankara, however, seems to have not learned a lesson. Plans remain underway for a second nuclear power plant in Sinop, on the country’s northern Black Sea coast. The government is looking for new partners after a Japanese-led consortium abandoned the project due to prohibitive costs.

According to the Energy Ministry’s 2019-2023 strategy paper, Ankara will seek an intergovernmental deal different from that with Russia and the details of the project, including its capacity and fuel and reactor types, will be decided once the builder is found.

December 17, 2020 Posted by | politics, Turkey | Leave a comment

Russian company with powerful connections withdraws from Turkish nuclear plant operation

November 3, 2020 Posted by | politics international, Russia, Turkey | Leave a comment

Danger of Armenian nuclear plant to neighbouring Turkey

February 1, 2020 Posted by | safety, Turkey | Leave a comment

In Turkey, renewable energy rising, as nuclear partnership with Japan is scrapped

January 21, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, renewable, Turkey | Leave a comment

Turkey may shut US nuclear weapons base over sanctions threat

December 17, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Turkey, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Turkey Has Long Had Nuclear Dreams

Ankara has been contemplating developing nuclear weapons since the 1960s.  Foreign Policy,  BY COLUM LYNCH,  NOVEMBER 1, 2019, 

In September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told members of his party that it is time for his country to acquire its own nuclear bomb.

Such a move would mark a sharp break from previous obligations by Turkey, a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which bars non-nuclear states from acquiring nuclear weapons. But this is not the first time that Turkey—which has played host to U.S. nuclear weapons since the late 1950s—has craved its own nuclear weapons program.

As part of our Document of the Week series, Foreign Policy is posting a copy of a Sept. 26, 1966, memo describing to then-Ambassador Parker T. Hart a troubling conversation Clarence Wendel, the U.S. minerals attache at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, had with a “reliable” Turkish scientist on Turkey’s nuclear ambitions.

The memo, one of 20 previously declassified documents on nuclear weapons in Turkey compiled this week by the National Security Archive, claims the source disclosed that officials from Turkey’s General Directorate of Mineral Research and Exploration “had been asked to cooperate with General [Refik] Tulga and Professor Omer Inonu (Professor of Physics at METU) [Middle East Technical University] in a Turkish program to develop an ‘Atomic Bomb.’”

Wendel, according to the memo, had flagged a number of developments suggesting the claim may be credible, including: “Repeated Turkish assertions that a 200 mega-watt nuclear reactor is planned for Istanbul”; the stockpiling of reserves of 300 to 600 tons of uranium in low-grade ore deposits; and the “delaying and haggling tactics of the Turkish negotiators during discussions of the extension of the bilateral agreement on peaceful uses of atomic energy which primarily concerned the transfer of safeguards responsibility from the U.S.A. to the International Atomic Energy Agency.”……..

November 2, 2019 Posted by | politics, Turkey | Leave a comment

Turkey isn’t “holding 50 US nuclear weapons ‘hostage”

October 20, 2019 Posted by | Turkey, weapons and war | Leave a comment

USA anxiety over its nuclear weapons stashed in Turkey

The US is rethinking the 50-plus nuclear weapons it keeps in Turkey, Quartz, By Tim Fernholz,  14 Oct 19, Turkish forces are pushing into northern Syria, replacing and sometimes even firing on the US troops retreating at Donald Trump’s orders.

The question of whether Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is really a US ally was put to US defense secretary Mark Esper on Fox television this morning. “No, I think Turkey, the arc of their behavior over the past several years has been terrible,” he said.

Which brings up a problem: The US is storing perhaps 50 air-dropped thermonuclear bombs at its Incirlik Airbase in southern Turkey, less than 100 miles from the Syrian border where this conflict is taking place.

The nuclear stockpile dates back to the Cold War, when the US sought to keep a sufficient supply of atomic weapons deployed in Europe to deter potential Soviet aggression. Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy also host similar arsenals, and the US trains the participating nations in the use of the doomsday devices.

Today, these bombs remain in place largely because of inertia, and the hope that countries like Turkey will see the depot as sufficient reason not to develop nuclear weapons of their own. It doesn’t seem to be working: Last month, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he could “not accept” efforts to prevent Turkey from developing its own atomic bombs.

But instability in Turkey and the region, along with Ankara’s close relationship with Russia, have had American strategists talking about re-locating their weapons for years. (The US does not officially discuss the arsenal, but there is no indication that the stockpile has been removed.)……..

October 14, 2019 Posted by | Turkey, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Turkey’s Foreign Minister explains hurdles in Turkey’s path to nuclear weapons

September 17, 2019 Posted by | politics, Turkey, weapons and war | Leave a comment

A lot of safety worries for Turkey’s Akkuyu nuclear plant

Turkey’s Akkuyu nuclear plant facing numerous safety concerns – Birgün,  21 July 19,Top-level officials working at Turkey’s Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant construction project say a series of problems, including lack of design adaptation and a shortage of competent engineers on site, are posing serious safety concerns, left-wing Birgün newspaper reported.Located in Turkey’s Mediterranean coastal town of Mersin, Turkey’s first nuclear power plant Akkuyu is a joint Russian-Turkish project with Russian energy company Rosatom as the majority stakeholder. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin kicked off the construction of the plant on Apr. 3 amid concerns about the potentially destructive ecological consequences of the plant.

The project hit a snag in May when fissures discovered in the foundations, according to pro-government outlet HaberTürk. New concrete was laid only for more cracks to be discovered.

The problem of the cracks, discovered by Turkey’s Atomic Energy Authority (TAEK), have since been fixed, however the foundation of the plant remains a problem.

The design of the plant was created with Russian landscape and weather in mind and is in need of revision to be adapted to Turkey’s warm climate, officials told Birgün.

“For example, sloping in the mountains should be conducted in a more horizontal fashion, but it has been done vertically to minimise costs and this is resulting the boulders continually rolling down the hills,’’ one official said.

The ground the plant is being built on, which according to a geology engineer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, is filled with gaps and cannot support the plant.

“Technically speaking, you can construct a structure over any kind of surface. However, the structure at hand is not a copy-paste matter, it must be revised according to the present surface. None of this is happening because the engineers of the project are not competent,’’ the engineer said, pointing to gaps that may lead to condensation, among other problems.

The project is run entirely on the ‘’past experiences’’ contractors, one official said.  ‘’They are acting as though a building is being constructed instead of a nuclear reactor. And even during the process of constructing a building, a much more serious plan of action is followed.’’

The cooling of the plant is to take place through the waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

The warm water to be released into the sea after the cooling process, a chemical engineer who spoke to left-wing Birgün daily said, will lead to increased temperatures in the water, which in turn affects marine life.

’Chlorine is placed in the water to avoid mussels etc. from sticking to the pipes used to draw the water. And then this water, which now naturally has chlorine in it, is released into the sea,’’ the official said. ‘’Imagine the damage this can create in the sea, which is filled with living organisms.’’

July 22, 2019 Posted by | safety, Turkey | Leave a comment