Turkey Watch

Watching the Turkish nail being put into Europian coffin.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Analysis: Turkey eyes nuclear energy

From Monsters and Critics

TEL AVIV, Israel (UPI) -- Despite a recent visit to Turkey by Mohammed ElBaradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the country`s plans to add nuclear power are still in their earliest stages, IAEA officials said.

Turkey is aiming to build three nuclear power plants over the next decade, though no locations have been announced and no licenses have been issued. The country also lacks a nuclear regulatory agency, which it must establish as separate from the licensing authority before any project can move forward.

During his early July visit to Turkey, ElBaradei told Turkish officials that 'extensive and rigorous planning is essential, with `cradle-to-grave` considerations ranging from up-front financing and licensing all the way through decommissioning and the future disposition of spent fuel and waste,' an IAEA spokesman said.

'The general situation is this: The IAEA is never in a position to endorse or (prevent) a country`s launch into nuclear power,' the spokesman, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to go on the record with the media, told United Press International.

'We only have an advisory role.'

To that end, the agency can conduct feasibility studies for the area earmarked for a nuclear plant. 'If the area is flooded by monsoon rains, for instance, we might suggest that (building a nuclear plant there) is not the best idea,' the spokesman said.

'Once a country decides on its own to (venture into) nuclear power, the IAEA has an optional service to help the countries build a nuclear safety regime, including seismic studies done according to the latest standards,' he said.

'So far, almost all countries have taken advantage of this service,' and Turkish officials have signaled their interest as well.

Although no sites for nuclear power plants have yet been named officially, the IAEA spokesman said one site at Sinop in northern Turkey was a likely contender. Locals and environmentalists oppose building a plant there.

An earlier proposal for a site in southeastern Turkey was shelved in 2000 because it sat on a seismic fault line, and Greenpeace activists protested Turkish plans to build a nuclear power plant there as early as 1999.

An official from the Turkish Atomic Energy Agency told UPI that he could not elaborate much on Turkey`s nuclear plans, and Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources officials did not immediately return telephone calls.

Earlier this year, as the country`s nuclear aspirations picked up steam, TurkishPress.com collected a cross-section of reactions among Turkish businessmen and experts.

'Except for Finland, no Western countries have established nuclear power plants since 1978,' the report quoted Middle East Technical University chemistry professor Inci Gokmen as saying.

'Nuclear plants contain extremely complicated technologies. Also, Turkey will have to import fuel for those power plants ... we should benefit from domestic and renewable energy sources instead,' Gokmen said.

However, the chairman of Turkey`s Ankara Chamber of Industry came out in favor of the nuclear plans.

'Those who oppose the establishment of nuclear power plants in Turkey should not forget that there have already been plants (established) in neighboring countries ... nuclear power plants in Turkey will create a great atmosphere for investments,' the report quoted Zafer Caglayan as saying.

Part of the push for nuclear comes from Turkey`s growing energy consumption and lack of natural resources. As Turkey makes plans for nuclear energy, it is also angling to become one of the world`s major oil and gas corridors.

The country already boasts several pipelines, including part of the recently inaugurated Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil conduit, the second-longest in the world.

BTC brings Caspian Sea oil to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, where it goes onward to Europe and possibly the United States in the future. Turkey plays an important role by providing the West with an alternate energy source, but can`t use the vast amounts of oil pumped across the country to provide its own citizens with electricity.

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