The idea of building a nuclear power plant in Turkey was first put forward about 60 years ago. Akkuyu in Mersin Province and Sinop have been the two places proposed for building a nuclear power plant since almost the earliest days of the introduction of this idea. Changing economic and political conditions led to the cancellation of the nuclear power plant projects even if the cancellations were for different reasons. Economic and political conditions have changed a lot within the past 60 years in Turkey, but two issues have remained unchanged: Turkey doesn’t need nuclear power plants to meet the electricity demand of the country, and the number of those who say no to nuclear power plants is higher than the number of nuclear proponents.
PEOPLE ARE AGAINST NUCLEAR
In a study conducted by Konda Research and Consultancy in April 2013, the percentage of those who responded ‘no’ to nuclear was 63.4%. This percentage rose to about 80% after Fukushima. Although the government has control over a substantial part of the press, and media bosses have close relations with energy and construction companies, the number of those who say no to nuclear is not diminishing. It appears that even those who have voted for the Justice and Development Party (AKP: Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi), in power for 12 years, do not support the nuclear energy policy of the government. This anti-nuclear attitude can be seen more clearly in Sinop and Mersin. AKP won local elections in 2009 in 45 provinces, 10 of which are metropolitan municipalities. Other political parties were successful in 36 provinces in total, 10 of which are metropolitan municipalities. Among the cities which AKP lost, and it was also outflanked in the county municipalities, are the two cities of Sinop and Mersin. The government is not asking people whether they want nuclear power plants or not. They also avoid coming face to face and discussing the issue with anti-nuclear citizens or their political rivals. We have never witnessed the minister of energy discussing the nuclear energy issue with anti-nuclear citizens on a live broadcast or a panel discussion. Therefore, the question of Turkey’s building a nuclear power plant is far beyond a technical issue. We have a large democratic problem ahead. AKP wants to ignore public opinion and build the nuclear power plants. It is clear that this attitude will strike another blow against the already staggering democratization process of Turkey.
The agreements Japan and the Russian Federation signed with the Republic of Turkey show no sympathy to what people think. Neither Sinop citizens nor the people of Mersin have complete information about the content of these agreements. They are against the nuclear power plant but nobody cares about them. Where will the nuclear waste be stored? Who will inspect the power plants? Will there be an independent inspection organization? Nobody answers such questions. In taking a decision to build a nuclear power plant despite the will of the people, the government commits a crime against democracy. Japan and Russia are parties to this crime.
The most important argument used for justifying the building of a nuclear power plant in Turkey is the rapid increase in electricity/energy demand. The projections made by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources show that electricity demand will increase at least 6.4% annually under a low scenario and 7.6% at the most according to the high scenario. The disclosed actual numbers for the past two years have been lower than even the lower scenario. What is more, the reliability of these scenarios is highly controversial. Turkish Electricity Transmission Corporation (TEIAŞ), in its prediction made in 2005, stated that electricity demand would be 262 billion kWhs under a high scenario in 2011. But Turkey’s actual electricity demand in 2011 remained at 230 billion kWhs. It is impossible to reach this number even by the end of 2013. TEIAŞ deviated from its 2005 predictions by 12 percent. These predictions were made on the premise that Turkey would continue to develop at high rates, but the economy has decelerated for the past couple of years. These predictions have no credibility. We also know that the predictions mentioned above do not take energy conservation and efficiency into consideration. The 9th Development Plan of the Ministry of Development states that the consumption of both general energy and electricity can be decreased by 20-25% thanks to efficiency practices carried out in buildings and the transportation sector. It is particularly apparent that Turkey will not need nuclear power plants if we will simply place emphasis on energy conservation and efficiency issues.
WE DON’T USE ENERGY EFFICIENTLY
I should underline the fact that we face a government which never considers questioning such an exaggerated increase in demand, and ‘is surprisingly slow’ at taking several crucial measures ranging from transmission line losses to energy efficiency. Turkey uses two or even three times more energy than many countries in Europe to produce the same product or service. Whereas a tendency to use energy more efficiently is observed all over the world, we witness almost no progress achieved in Turkey since 1990. 242 kgoe (kilograms of oil equivalent) was used to generate 1,000 Euros of economic growth in 1990, and now this number is 233. We face a country which has done nothing to use energy more efficiently in the last 25 years. Even if this seems bad at first glance, it also indicates a serious potential for energy conservation.
CLEAN ENERGY POTENTIAL
Another point on which the government is weak is renewable energy sources. Everybody knows that Turkey is one of the sunniest countries in Europe. Official figures show that the potential is equivalent to 380 billion kWh. Considering that the electricity consumption of Turkey is 240 billion kWh, using even a part of this untouched resource would be enough to shelve the nuclear power plant plans. The total installed power capacity of Turkey is above 60,000 megawatts (MW). The total power of photovoltaic panels used for generating electrical power from the sun doesn’t account for even 10 MW. Other energy sources such as wind, geothermal, and biomass are ready to be utilized. Only 2,700 MW of the total of 48,000 MW economical wind potential has been brought into use. Even if we don’t list lignite coal and hydroelectric potential, which environmentalists view with suspicion, we can say that the electricity demand of a nuclear-free Turkey will be easily met. Furthermore, it is practical to keep in mind that Turkey is an earthquake country, where control, inspection and transparency policies are highly controversial.
After the Fukushima accident, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated “No investment is accident risk free. If so, we shouldn’t use bottled gas at home, install natural gas pipelines or have a crude oil line passing through our country.” Attempting to build a nuclear power plant in a country where the prime minister compares a nuclear power plant accident with a bottled gas explosion is just like having an accident waiting to happen. The Black Sea region was the region most seriously affected by the Chernobyl disaster in Turkey. Today, whichever door you knock at in Sinop you encounter people inside who have lost one of their relatives because of cancer. The people of Sinop know nuclear energy is the actual reason for their pains and are determined not to allow a new disaster to occur. Having heard the decision of the agreement signed with Japan, the Anti-Nuclear Platform, dozens of non-governmental organizations and political parties assembled and set up a new organization, making a fresh start. The people of Sinop who have recently fought against and stopped the installation of a huge thermal power plant in the city say they absolutely will not allow a nuclear power plant to be built there.
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