The recent thaw in the short-lived tensions between Russian and Turkey has, as would well be anticipated, resulted in swarm of resurrected investment projects. One of the most controversial is the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, plans for which have recently been met with renewed political vigor from both camps. Russian state-owned nuclear energy corporation Rosatom has undertaken construction of the ominous project.
Situated in the Mersin province on Turkey’s southern coast, the plant’s foundation will incautiously be situated upon one of the Mediterranean’s most active seismic zones. Despite vocal opposition from local residents, especially fearful of the effects upon the region’s tourism industry and agriculture in the area, construction of the plant now seems unavoidable.
In his groundbreaking 1997 study “The CANDU Syndrome: Canada’s Bid to Export Nuclear Reactors to Turkey”, David H. Martin of Canada’s Nuclear Awareness Project for the Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout argued that “Terrorists do not need nuclear weapons if they can trigger a catastrophic radiation release by attacking a nuclear power plant. Security risks at a future nuclear power plant in Turkey are an extremely serious consideration.”
In a recent article for Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News, Dr. Önal Özdemir, chairman of City Health Service of Mersin Metropolitan Municipality is quoted as saying: “Turkey has vast sources of energy such as sun, wind and water that do not harm people’s health at all. Without using these sources efficiently, I do not think it’s acceptable to think of nuclear power plants. People could somehow cope with the natural disasters but there is almost no way of dealing with the nuclear [fallout] as we have seen at Chernobyl and Fukushima. [Nuclear] power plants generate risk for the whole region not just for the countries in which they are located.
In my opinion, the regions have vast sunshine throughout the year and we could make use of this with investments in solar energy. Investment in nuclear energy also harms the tourism potential in the region. Have you ever seen a holiday resort next to a nuclear plant?”
Curiously, for a country with immense amounts of untapped natural resources, constructing a nuclear power plant in the wake of the Fukushima disaster gives rise to a multitude of questions. Nowhere have the alarm bells sounded louder than in neighbouring Cyprus, The situation is not without its ironies. Turkey is demanding a say in how European Union member Cyprus divest its future income from the enormous offshore gas and oil deposits off its southern shores and is vehemently laying claim to any deposits lying in an area even remotely converging upon outer Turkish shores. It is a rather fractious task, to say the least, to correlate a rabid enthusiasm for nuclear energy, while concurrently performing over-valiant requisitions upon fossil fuel deposits which decades-old international treaties have imparted upon neighbouring Cyprus and Greece.
The fact that EU candidate nation Turkey is refusing to take a seat alongside Poland, Belgium, Germany, Spain and Sweden on the nuclear power phase-out wagon is also brimming with its share or irony.
Demetris Georgiades, via email