Nuclear Energy and Turkey - Atahan Tümer

Nuclear energy is a subject that has been on the world agenda for years. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) data, there are 449 nuclear reactors active in 30 countries in the world today. The construction of 56 new reactors continues in 15 countries. These power plants can generate a very large amount of electricity. Besides, nuclear energy, which is quite economical in this sense, also causes less damage to the environment than coal and natural gas alternatives. Nuclear energy is actively discussed in Turkey since around 1970 years. We can often observe these discussions in the political arena. Nuclear power began to be spoken by establishing Turkey’s Atomic Energy Commission in 1956 Turkey. Since the year when it first came out of the discussion, nuclear energy production venture located in Turkey, it has undergone unfortunately failed in this attempt. Turkey is a growing economy with a developing industry and has a young population. At this point, nuclear energy is a very important issue for Turkey. The majority of the electricity consumed by Turkey, which is produced with the resources imported from abroad. Turkey is a country largely dependent on foreign energy sources. Every year we spend billions of dollars on energy resources. For this reason, various governments have expressed their desire to establish a nuclear power plant for many years and tried to take steps in this regard. Today, there are three nuclear power plant projects, one under construction and two in the planning phase. These projects are not projects that have been put forward in recent years but are exactly the product of a deep-rooted state policy.

Nuclear energy is a form of energy that is a mystery, whether it is harmful or harmless. We all know that the world has experienced disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima. There are lessons to be learned from these disasters. However, making these disasters our main point and completely opposing nuclear energy can be considered wrong. The concerns at this point are understandable because even the smallest mistake can lead to a disaster that can affect dozens of generations. The effects of the Chernobyl disaster can still be observed in Ukraine today. At this point, the important point is the correct use of nuclear energy. When managed by advanced and trained staff, nuclear energy is far less harmful than natural gas and coal alternatives. At this point, nuclear energy is a great opportunity for emerging economies, Turkey’s nuclear energy if properly evaluated.

At this point, the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant project will show us Turkey’s seriousness on this issue. It will be made by one of the subsidiaries of the Russian state nuclear power company ROSATOM. Turkey lacks the trained workforce for this, the first nuclear power plant made by foreign experts, of course normal. Besides, Turkey’s policy, the construction of future nuclear power plants, to be carried out entirely by Turkish engineers. The agreement signed between the two states in 2010, which enables young Turkish engineers to be trained in Russia to train expert staff, proves this state policy. Under this agreement, young Turkish engineers, who have been educated in Russia for many years, are now working in Akkuyu. Simultaneously, localization, in other words, nationalization of the materials used, continues to increase. This project, built by the Russian company, Turkey, is expected to meet 6% of the electricity needs when completed. This is an important amount for the beginning. The first reactor at the power plant is expected to be operational in 2023.

The second nuclear power plant is planned to be built in Sinop, and the third is planned to be built in Thrace. This is stated to be its proximity to the Marmara Region, which is our region with the highest electricity demand and hosts the majority of industrial production in the country.

There are great reactions from some segments of the society, especially environmentalists, for the plants built and planned to be built. Environmentalists especially express that foreign dependency will increase because we do not have nuclear fuel facilities. They oppose nuclear power plant projects by stating that the plant can reduce investment in renewable energy sources. However, we must admit that nuclear energy, which is now used in many countries worldwide, is very important for our developing country. We should not forget that nuclear energy can be used safely as long as there are no extreme situations. At this point, nuclear energy may be crucial for Turkey’s policy to provide energy needs independent from foreign sources. Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez said in a previous statement that an investment of 10 billion dollars in nuclear energy until 2023 might save 30 billion dollars by 2033. These amounts are very vital for a country like Turkey, which has a high current account deficit.

To sum up, Turkey may significantly contribute to the country’s economy by using nuclear energy. With the savings obtained from there, the budget can be created for investment in other necessary areas. We hope that Turkey will get closer to economic independence by taking place in nuclear energy in the coming years.

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