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HomeEconomyNuclear Energy and Turkiye - An Update - February 24, 2006

Nuclear Energy and Turkiye – An Update – February 24, 2006

It is very likely that several companies in the United States, the pioneer in the atomic energy, will soon start investing in nuclear power plants again, possibly followed by some European countries, Russia and others.

China has already announced building 30 to 40 new nuclear power plants through 2020, India up to 30 and Japan 18 in the next 15 years (Figure 1). There has been a continued interest (since the 70s) and an ongoing debate whether Turkey should also include nuclear energy in its long term plans that envision more than doubling its present installed capacity of 39,000MW within the next 17 years.

It seems that an announcement will be made soon by the government for Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, estimated to cost over $2 billion, to be completed by 2012, and plans for building three to five nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 5,000 MW.

One of the conditions, among many others that would require amendments to the Electricity Market Law 4628, is that the electricity distribution companies, which are yet to be privatized, purchase  7 to 10 per cent of the energy produced by the nuclear power plants.

On the financing model, the Minister of Energy has indicated that the Private/Public Participation (PPP) model could be used, however emphasizing that the preference would be total private sector participation. Earlier reports have stated that there would be no treasury guarantees in order not to jeopardize the free market conditions which are expected to be provided by the energy sector itself.

During a presentation at the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources conference centre on Dec 27, 2005, the chief economist for the International Energy Agency (IEA) Dr Fatih Birol, while emphasizing the importance of increased investments in oil and gas production around the world to meet the increasing energy demand, discussed Turkey’s need for nuclear energy (1).

Dr Birol, who was in Turkey to publicize the IEA’s annual report on the world’s energy situation ‘’World Energy Outlook – 2005’’, stated that Turkey must consider nuclear energy seriously without wasting time in order to reduce Turkey’s growing dependence on imports.

Dr Birol also emphasized that the nuclear option should be seriously debated before proceeding to build a nuclear power plant, especially the financing model to be employed and the processing of the nuclear waste, which is a major problem in all countries with nuclear power plants.

The purpose of this article is to present an update on the latest status of the nuclear power debate in Turkey and the major issues that need to be addressed by many organizations with some basic information on the sector (2).

It seems that the main reason for the cancellation of many nuclear power plants in the late 70s and early 80s was economics. The total cost of the first nuclear power plant that I worked on as a young engineer in the 70s was around $390 million (Millstone I in Connecticut, 620 MW).

The two-unit Comanche Peak Nuclear Power plant in Texas (2X1,100 MW) where I worked as the Project Manager for the modifications, cost the utility close to $10 billion by the time the plant was fixed following the initial faulty design and construction by an inexperienced company, one of the major issues that need to be taken into account before a contract is awarded.

Nuclear Power Plants

Utilities in the United States started building nuclear power plants following the announcement in the early fifties of ‘’Atoms for Peace’’ project by President Dwight Eisenhower. This was followed by other countries through the purchase of nuclear reactors and technology transfer in the 60s which created their own brands.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency reports, there are 443 nuclear power plants in operation today with a total net installed capacity of 369,545 MW (more than 10 times the installed capacity of Turkey.) 25 Nuclear power plants are under construction in several countries.

Nuclear power plants, like hydro, have a very large capital cost, but relatively low operating and fuel costs with a 40 year lifetime that can be extended to 60 years with refurbishments.

One of the biggest issues that everyone faces today is global warming which is caused by the carbon dioxide emissions by the coal-fired power plants, among others, something that nuclear power plants do not contribute. Therefore, incentives for providing pollution-free power, among others, could be given to nuclear operators for contributing to the fight against global warming.

According to the latest reports, 16% of the world’s electrical energy is provided by nuclear power plants. Price of oil and eventual depletion, greater safety and greenhouse issues require that the nuclear option be considered for meeting Turkey’s increasing demand for electricity.

Most important factors that should be studied in depth before proceeding with the plans to build nuclear power plants in Turkey include the following:

1.   Investors, developers and operators with proven experience in the nuclear field

  1. A licensed design with advancements factored into the latest systems
  2. A site with minimum impact on the environment, evacuation plans and minimum seismic risks
  3. Reputable engineering companies and contractors, and reliable construction schedule
  4. A waste site for storage until a solution is found for the radioactive waste disposal
  5. Long term power purchase agreement with distribution companies
  6. Regulatory climate for licensing and operating nuclear power plants
  7. Technology Transfer

1.  Investors, developers and operators with proven experience in the nuclear field

The new Electricity Market Law No. 4628 that went to effect in 2001 mandates that all future investments in the sector be made by the private sector although Law No. 4749 on the Regulation of Public Finance and Debt Management (adopted in 2002) allows for companies to be established through a public-private partnership.

Therefore, the task of building nuclear power plants will probably fall on the private local and foreign companies working together which have been successful during the last decade with a joint venture partnership. If nuclear power plants are to be realized through the Private Public Participation scheme, as suggested by the Minister of Energy, necessary legislation will have to be enacted. Furthermore, it may also be necessary to include some arrangements that will allow the state-owned Electricity generation Corporation (EUAS) to engage in nuclear energy investments. (2)

2.  Nuclear Steam Supply System Providers and Fuel

When President Eisenhower announced the peaceful use of atom in the 50s, stating that nuclear energy will be too cheap to meter, many energy companies started investing in nuclear power plants, including Westinghouse and General Electric in the US and began exporting their technology to other countries and have have been working on advanced reactors for some time which would provide alternate designs, not old technology as some claim, for Turkey as well.

Westinghouse, which has provided NSSS for almost half the operating nuclear power plants around the world, has been actively promoting their new design, AP1000. General Electric has been working with Japanese companies in the development of an advanced boiling water reactor for many years.

Canadian company AECL has several operating power plants utilizing the CANDU system which have also been installed in Japan and Argentina, however many problems with the system has resulted in the abandonment of some of these plants. CANDU has also been working on advanced design.

French company Framatom ANP and German company Siemens have introduced, with other companies, an advanced reactor that is being offered to several counties, although Germany has officially declared closing down its operating nuclear power plants gradually by 2023.

The Russian nuclear energy agency has started talks with private investors in their participation in new nuclear power plants in Russia as well as in Bulgaria. Several Japanese companies have advanced the design and construction of reactors that they imported back in the 70s and are building more nuclear power plants (6 of 25 nuclear power plants under construction are in Japan.) There are 23 nuclear power plants in the United Kindom. However, UK companies do not seem to be interested in exporting nuclear technology to other countries as far as I know.

One of the new players in the nuclear field is China which has an ambitious plan of its own and also exports nuclear technology to several countries. The 300 MW Chasma nuclear power plant in Pakistan was developed by Chinese companies and has agreed to sell two more nuclear power plants, 325 MW each Several reports indicate that the Chinese companies are also interested in the Turkish market, both nuclear and coal power plants.

Most nuclear power plants use enriched uranium as the fuel, although the CANDU reactors use natural uranium but require heavy water as the moderator, which in itself is a costly technology. Many reports have been issued stating that Turkey is rich in uranium ore, but this would require imported technology for its processing, which may be delegated to countries that are already active in the field, as Russia has offered to Iran for its controversial plant which is in the news.

3.  Site Selection

Selection of a proper site that would minimize the impact on the environment with an evacuation plan and low seismic risk is very important. A completed nuclear power plant at a cost of over $4 billion in Long Island, NY was converted to a thermic power plant when the evacuation plans were found to be inadequate.

Among the sites selected for Turkey’s first nuclear power plant are the Mersin – Akkuyu (where site investigations were started almost 30 years ago, but some claim that it is near a fault), Sinop, Konya and areas adjacent to Sakarya river, where the high water demand of nuclear power plants can be met.

Site studies may take several years, therefore, Akkuyu and Sinop sites, where the infrastructure is already in place, maybe selected for the first nuclear plant, with studies to continue at the other sites.

4.   Engineering and Construction Companies and Equipment Suppliers

There are many Turkish and foreign companies which have a proven record in building power plants and have shown interest in expanding into the nuclear field. Some power plant components are now being manufactured in Turkey also.

5.  Radioactive Waste and Storage

The management of the spent fuel is the most important factor that needs to be taken into account. The spent fuel rods presently are stored in steel-lined concrete pools which are an integral part of the plants. There is also an ongoing study for building reactors that use spent fuel rods in order to reduce the radioactive waste. All nations that have nuclear power plants (over 40) should work together in order to find a solution for the safe disposal of radioactive waste.

6.  Long term Power Purchase Agreement

Since the new law does not allow any sort of guarantees (power purchase or treasury), the developers will be looking for long term Purchase Agreements with the distribution companies, which by the time the new plants go online, will have been privatized, according to the latest news.

7.  Regulatory climate for licensing and operating

The organization responsible for the research, licensing and the regulation of nuclear energy in Turkey, is the ‘’Turkish Atomic Energy Institution (TAEK) located in Ankara, which has started talks with leading nuclear power plant constructors in the US, England, France, Russia and China.

TAEK is expected to be re-structured along two separate lines, one for licensing of nuclear power plants and the other for regulation. The type of nuclear power plant (boiling water, pressurized water, natural uranium, advanced reactor) has not been selected yet, which is one of the critical issues.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) located in Vienna is the world’s centre for cooperation in the nuclear field. The Agency works with its Member States worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.

8.   Technology Transfer

When the Mexican sate utility, Commission Federal de Electricidad (CFE), decided to build its first nuclear power plant in the 80s, Ebasco Services Inc, a Newyork-based international company, was selected as the design and construction contractor (a company with over 1,000 power plants around the world in its portfolio, including the Keban HEPP and Gokcekaya HEPP in Turkey, which has since been incorporated into Washington Group International.)

One of the conditions agreed between CFE and Ebasco later was to set up an office in Mexico City where some of the plant design work would be performed by Mexican engineers under Ebasco supervisors. This was done and most of the engineers went on working on the second unit at the Veracruz site, but the plans to build up to 20 nuclear power plants were later abandoned due to economic reasons.


The opposition of many countries to the development of a nuclear power plant in Iran has been in the news extensively due to the possibility of using nuclear technology in manufacturing nuclear weapons. As stated in many articles (Ref 2), strengthening the nonproliferation regimes has been the key issue in Turkey’s official stance towards the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Therefore, I don’t believe that Turkey needs to have nuclear weapons for its protection.

Anti-nuclear lobbies

As in most countries, there is also strong opposition to building nuclear power plants in Turkey. A new group formed in Sinop (Nuclear Information Center – NUKBIL) has openly stated that they do not support a nuclear plant near their city which hopes to become a tourist centre in the near future. Greenpeace, long active in environmental issues in Turkey, has also voiced its opposition to building nuclear power plants for a number of reasons.

As the Minister of Energy stated during the December 27 meeting, all organizations related to nuclear energy are working together to come up with the best solution since the demand for electricity will keep increasing each year. The Electricity Market Regulatory Authority (EMRA) has estimated that over 5,000MW new capacity will need to be added to the system by 2010.

Renewable Energy Sources

The pursuit of nuclear energy should not mean that power plants using renewable energy sources should not be built. Turkey has a great hydro and wind potential whish should be developed urgently in parallel with building nuclear power plants. Just last year alone, 11,769 MW of wind power was added worldwide, as reported in ‘’ReFocus Weekly.’’


(1)     The conference was attended by the representatives of all the institutions and departments under the Ministry of Energy and many organizations, such as Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Forestry, Electricity Market Regulatory Authority (EMRA), TUBITAK, The Undersecretariat of Treasury and the State Planning Organization and the press.

(2)     The nuclear energy issue was also covered during the Dec 15/16 panel discussions at the Middle East Technical University (OTDU) in Ankara under the title, ‘’Is Nuclear Energy the solution? Another panel discussion took place during the Dec 21 – 23 Fifth Energy Symposium organized by the Association of Electrical Engineers (EMO) at the National Library in Ankara. The proceedings of the panel, ‘’Energy Policies and Nuclear Power Plants’’ has been issued by the EMO of Ankara (2). Panel yoneticisi, Necati Ipek, EMO Ankara Subesi YK Baskani

(3)     EUAS is a shareholder in the Birecik HEPP BOT Power plant that went online in 2002.

(4)     A new group has been formed to disseminate information on nuclear energy, which is open to anyone interested in this subject (


(1)     Turkey’s Quest for Peaceful Nuclear Power, by Mustafa Kibaroglu, published in ‘’The Nonproliferation Review, Spring-Summer, 1997
(2)     Beyond Iran: The Risk of Nuclearizing Middle East. Presentation at the Washington Institute, February 9, 2005
(3)     Nuclear Power Gains New Power, by Steven Edwards, New York, National Post (
(4)     Turkiye’nin Enerji Sorunu ve Nukleer Enerji, by Necmi Dayday
(5)     Nuclear Enerji Dunyada Yeniden Yukselise Gecti – Ilk Santral temeli 2007’de, by Olcay Aydilek, Global Energy magazine, August 2005 (
(6)     Avrupa Birligi’nin Nukleer Enerji ve Guvenlik Politikasi, by Mehmet Durmus, EU Publication

Yuksel Oktay, PE
Energy Consultant

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