Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Greenpeace: Quake-prone Turkey should drop nuclear

Turkey should abandon plans to launch nuclear power plants, because its proximity to geological fault lines means it could face a nuclear crisis like the one in Japan, Greenpeace said on Thursday.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said plans for a Russian-built plant on Turkey's Mediterranean coast and a second one for its Black Sea coast, which is under discussion with Tokyo Electric Power Co and Toshiba, won't be affected by the risk of a natural disaster like the earthquake that struck Japan.

Turkey is crisscrossed by fault lines (right, click for larger image), and small and medium earthquakes are a near daily occurrence. Two large quakes in 1999 killed more than 20,000 people.

"It is a mistake to go nuclear after what has happened in Japan," Uygar Ozesmi, Greenpeace's Mediterranean director, said at a news conference. "In a quake-prone country like Turkey, you cannot launch a nuclear power industry."

Japan's Fukushima nuclear complex has been torn apart by four explosions since a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and a tsunami hit on March 11. Nuclear experts have warned the crisis in Japan may rival the extent of the 1986 Chernobyl accident (right), which spewed a cloud of radiation across Europe..

Energy officials have said Turkey will use third-generation technology that is safer than that used at Fukushima.

"Regardless of the dangers of an earthquake, nuclear technology itself is the main risk," Ozesmi said. "Whatever generation you use requires a cooling system, and when we look at any major nuclear incident, the cooling system is at fault."

Turkey has enough wind and solar power potential to more than compensate for the electricity it hopes to generate from nuclear, Ozesmi said.

Turkey has been trying to build a nuclear plant since the 1960s. Attempts by the government in 1960, 1968, 1974 and 1998 in various provinces such as Sinop and Akkuyu have all failed. Despite lengthy research, detailed preparation efforts and tender processes for such projects, all of them have failed for different reasons. None of these reasons, however, were based on a lack of technology or resources.

Russia and Turkey signed a contract in May 2010 to build Turkey’s first nuclear power plant with four reactors, at a cost of about $20 billion after more than a year of negotiations. Russia’s Rosatom Corp. will operate the plant in Akkuyu for 60 years, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin said Dec. 15, 2010.

The Turkish government then began discussions with South Korea for the second plant in Sinop but but those talks failed;. More productive talks with Japan were successful concluding with the Japanese agreeing to finance the project for the Turkish government as long as a Japanese firm would build it. Turkey aims to conclude a deal with Japan in three months, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız (left) said.

Now, however, after the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last week, both of the nuclear plants might be in danger once more. Yıldız said the plant to be built by the Russians was meant to withstand a magnitude-8.0 earthquake and could be increased if necessary. (At right: Japanese reactors and nuclear site almost a week after the earthquake that struck Japan. )

“We can’t ignore what is happening at the Japanese nuclear plant,” Yıldız said. Earlier Yıldız had said that Turkey wanted to launch an atomic power industry to diversify its energy mix and boost supply to keep up with soaring demand for electricity amid rapid economic growth. It wants to have 20 percent of its electricity come from nuclear power by 2030.

Right now Yıldız doesn’t even want to consider the possibility of not building a nuclear plant, but he might be forced to do so very soon. In Japan 140,000 people have been quarantined for being exposed to radiation, while workers at the nuclear plant site (left) may be exposing themselves to harmful levels of radiation in their attempts to regain control of the reactors and prevent a meltdown. Germany and Switzerland have postponed their decisions to build new nuclear plants and many other countries are deciding to close down all their nuclear plants built before the 1980s.

The Turkish government says Turkey must diversify its energy mix and boost supply to keep up with soaring demand amid rapid economic growth. It targets generation of 20 percent of power from nuclear by 2030.

The site planned for the Mediterranean nuclear station is only a couple of dozen miles from a fault line, which geologists fear is at danger of sliding at any time, said Hayrettin Kilic, a nuclear physicist who campaigns against atomic power.

"The Russian technology does not comply with Western standards, and Japanese companies have struggled to get licenses elsewhere. Both have design problems with their cooling systems," Kilic said,

During a visit to Moscow on Wednesday, Erdogan (left) said construction on a plant might start next month.

"We will take every possible precaution in the construction and management of the nuclear power plant," Erdogan said at a news conference. "But there are things that human power is inadequate to prevent, like natural disasters. This will not affect our plans and schedule for the nuclear power plant."

Reuters,"Greenpeace: Quake-prone Turkey should drop nuclear", accessed March 17, 2011
Turkish Defense, "Turkey’s nuclear energy struggle", accessed March 18, 2011

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