Energy Security and Natural Disasters - Yüksel Yasemin Altıntaş

What is energy security means? Different scholars can come with varying explanations for this question. If you asked me to explain energy security in one word, I would say Vulnerability. For me, the broadest interpretation of energy security is the Vulnerability of counties or energy systems. Energy security can be analyzed under different categories.

We need different types of energy to continue to live our lives, improve our life qualities. From heating to transport, sanitation to preserving the foods we need power. If we could not access energy, our life qualities would significantly reduce. The same principle applies to states as well. Energy is vital not only for human survival but it also has significant effects in the international arena. The sovereignty of the rules is also affected by their energy demand and energy production capacities. This dependency automatically shapes the global politics. If a nation’s energy resources depend on another country than dependent nationals become vulnerable against the energy provider nations in international politics. When it comes to domestic politics, energy also plays a significant role. To maintain peace and stability within their borders and to keep its citizens safe and secure, governments have to provide accessible energy to its citizens. If they cannot provide affordable energy for their citizens’ fundamental needs, their likelihood of being re-elected is also diminishing. States can find alternatives to decrease their energy dependency to a significant nation by investing more in renewable energy resources. If their geologic location allows them to purchase oil and gas from different countries, they can vary their vendors too.

Last week, on the 26th of September, an earthquake with 5.8 magnitudes, struck Istanbul. AFAD documents indicate that more than 28 aftershocks reported after the quake. Istanbul and its surrounding region are also affected by these aftershocks. Luckily there were not any life losses; critical injuries or construction losses occurred after the earthquake. Outcomes of the quake were not as tragic as the 17th of august, 1999 earthquake, but this does not mean the next would not be.

In the energy security context, the real question is when a state faces destruction, like a natural disaster, how fast the system can respond and recover the loss? To what extent Turkey’s or any other nation’s national disaster response plan covers energy security? Some may claim that energy security should not be the first concern of a state in the case of natural destruction. I want to remind the importance of energy for the ones who support that claim. Energy such as electricity plays a crucial role in such natural disasters. To obtain the location of injured civilians, inhibit the contamination of clean water resources, preserve the food and medical subsidies for more extended periods, and warm up an individual’s electricity is needed.

A few mounts ago on 21st of January 2019 Dmitrii Iakubovskii, Nadejda Komendantova, Elena Rovenskaya, Dmitry Krupenev, and Denis Boyarkin published an article about the “Impacts of Earthquakes on Energy Security in the Eurasian Economic Union: Resilience of the Electricity Transmission Networks in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.” Their findings indicate that electric transmission networks in their studied regions were vulnerable to earthquakes. I could not come across a similar study in the Turkish context, but if we can apply the same methodology to Turkey, we can take necessary precautions to minimize our lost.

World Nuclear Association indicated that approximately 20% of the world’s nuclear reactors are operating in the regions where significant seismic activity occurs; in other words, they work in the earthquake danger zones. To avoid more catastrophic outcomes, nuclear plants are designed in a way to withstand seismic activities. Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Analysis system is used when nuclear plants are planned.

This system shuts down the nuclear power plants when withstanding earthquakes beyond the magnitude of the most powerful quake recorded at that site; by doing that, it allows facilities to be capable of withstanding shocks. Unfortunately, this system isn’t foolproof.

On the 11th of March 2011, a magnitude 9 subaquatic earthquake hit Japan which triggered 12.5 meters high tsunami, and waves swept over Fukushima. Probabilistic Seismic Hazard Analysis managed to shut down six reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in response to the earthquake. The program started emergency diesel generators. However, after an hour with the hit of tsunami generators failed. Three out of six reactors suffered a significant accident sequence. As a result of zirconium’s reaction with water (in the plant’s cooling apparatus) hydrogen generated. The emanation of hydrogen caused two explosions. Moreover, contaminated water by radioactive material leaked into the plant’s surrounding area. As a result, both groundwater and seawater got contaminated. Daiichi disaster is one of the most extreme cases; smaller-scale accidents are far more common.

Turkey’s nuclear power plants are respectively located in Akkuyu (Mersin), Sinop, and İğneada. As it can be seen from the map, Sinop and İğneada atomic plants are situated in 4th-degree seismic zones whereas Akkuyu falls under the 3rd-degree seismic zone. They all can easily be affected by strong magnitude earthquakes which might occur around their location.

Due to space limitations and the complexity of the issue, I won’t be able to discuss potential problems that may arise from earthquakes with different energy resources. To cut a long story short, by considering Turkeys Seismic hazard zones and vitality of the energy security, we do hope to see the energy security strategy chapter within the national disaster response plan.

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