LALE – Turkish nuclear energy plants vs. transparency

Turkish nuclear energy plants vs. transparencyTurkeyand#39s lack of a truly independent regulatory board — a means to ensure the safety and security of nuclear power plants — has continued to be at the center of concern for those involved in nuclear safety and security issues.

Dr Chen Kane and Dr Holger Rogner, a senior research associate at the US-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) and a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna, respectively, are also of the opinion that Russia building Turkeyand#39s first nuclear power plant may perhaps eventually not come to pass due to too much politics involved in it, affecting its economic feasibility.According to Rogner, however, perhaps after the first reactor is built in the southern province of Mersin — the construction of which is scheduled to start in 2016 — the remaining three might not be built.

andldquoThe first one may be built to save face. But for the rest of the reactors, both countries might renegotiate the terms and conditions since it will be too costly for both Russia and Turkey to go ahead, with the former making the whole investment on the project [and] with the latter buying electricity too expensive, so that Moscow can compensate its high costs,andrdquo he stated at a workshop for journalists from the Middle East on nuclear safety, security and weapons of mass destruction nonproliferation that was held in Vienna on Dec.

3-5.The workshop, which I attended, was sponsored by United Arab Emirates (UAE) along with nongovernmental organizations, including the CNS, the US-based Stanley Foundation and the Vienna-based Atomic Reporters.

The event was hosted by the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP).It was a follow-up to the first workshop, which was held in Istanbul in June of this year in cooperation with Istanbuland#39s Okan University.

The aim of the workshops is to create awareness among Middle Eastern journalists about the safety of nuclear energy plants as well as the potential of those plants paving the way for developing nuclear weapons.In 2011 Turkey sealed a deal with Russia to build its first nuclear power plant in Akkuyu, Mersin province.

The plant will be built, owned and operated by Russiaand#39s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom) at a cost of around $20 billion. Hence, the project — which will be financed by Russia — involves building a 4,800-megawatt (MW) nuclear power plant with four reactors.

Kane described this build-operate-own model as the first of its kind in nuclear power deals.The Akkuyu plant is the first of three nuclear power plants planned for construction in Turkey which is attempting to reduce its energy imports by increasing domestic production.

Turkey is heavily dependent on natural gas imports from Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan for a large portion of its electricity production.Once the construction of the first reactor as part of Mersin project is completed — estimated to be within the next 10 years andndash the Turkish electricity authority will begin buying electricity from the plant.

Meanwhile, like Kane, Dr Aybars GurpInar, a Turkish national who worked for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for 21 years before becoming an independent consultant, cited the absence of a truly independent regulatory board to ensure the safety and security of the power plant as the main shortcoming in the Akkuyu Mersin nuclear power plant.GurpInar said the project is not more economical because the electricity to be bought by Turkey will be 12.

35 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh). Rogner noted that for a newly built plant, anything over 10 cents per kwh is high.

GurpInar noted that in the Mersin nuclear power deal, the fact that the regulator is another nuclear power plant operator — the Turkish Atomic Energy Agency — is a problem for the safety and security of the power plants. Normally, the regulator should be an independent entity.

andldquoTransparency is the basis for safety in nuclear power plants,andrdquo he added.However, he diverged from Kane and Rogner regarding their argument that the Turkish-Russian deal is purely political.

GurpInar stated that the nuclear deal cannot be reduced to its commercial aspects alone and that politics play also a factorIn the words of Kane, unlike Turkey, the UAE is relatively very strong concerning independent regulatory commissions compared with other countries in the region. In addition, she said, the UAE will finance its own nuclear energy power, giving it more control over the plant.

Turkey lacks the capital to finance its Mersin nuclear energy plant.According to Kane, if the political will and economy are strong enough in Russia, Turkey will have its nuclear energy power plants and if not, the planned power plant reactors will not be built.

For instance, she noted, after being rejected several times, an environmental assessment report (ED) was signed by the Turkish Environment and Urban Planning Ministry pertaining to this nuclear power plant shortly before Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Ankara for a visit on Dec. 1 Signing the ED report cleared the way for the construction of the first power plant.

The issue of nuclear power, meanwhile, has been divisive and controversial in Turkey amid discussions on the three planned plants. Environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, have staged a series of protests in opposition to the power plant, claiming that it will result in extensive environmental hazards.

Despite this, Turkey has taken steps to go ahead with its second nuclear power plant while speculation over controversies surrounding the deal with Russia continues.In 2013, a consortium made up of Japanand#39s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHE), Itochu Corp.

and Franceand#39s GDF Suez agreed to build another nuclear plant, with a capacity of about 4,500 MW in the Black Sea town of Sinop, at a cost of about $22 billion.Details of the terms and conditions of the project are planned to be negotiated in Ankara next week.

Moreover, Westinghouse released a statement on Nov. 24 saying Turkey has entered exclusive preliminary talks with the US-based Westinghouse Electric Company, part of Japanand#39s Toshiba Group, on building the countryand#39s third nuclear power plant.

The site of the third nuclear power plant has not been made official, although local press have speculated that it might be built in the IIneada district of KIrklareli province.Turkish terms are difficult for Westinghouse, but Turkey may be using these preliminary talks as leverage against Japanese-French partnership in the second power plant, so as to have its terms and conditions to be accepted by this partnership, Kane explained.

Turkeyand#39s search for building nuclear energy plants, which date back to the early 1960s, have finally become a reality in the 21st century, with the first one being signed with Russia Yet, this deal is overshadowed by arguments surrounding politics and transparency.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman