Following the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in the southern Turkish province of Mersin which took place on Wednesday, the Board of the Chamber of Environmental Engineers issued a statement saying that the Mediterranean is now under threat of nuclear pollution.. The statement read as follows:
“The Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan Prime Minister Recep and President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin Akkuyu attended a ceremony that marks a turning point for the whole eastern Mediterranean. Now, the Mediterranean under nuclear threat!
The contract for the power plant was signed in 2010 and the power plant is targeted to produce full capacity in 2026. The Government of the Republic of Turkey since 2023, plans to have reduced to less than 30 percent share of natural gas in electricity production. The Akkuyu plant in 2026 alone, according to the projections can meet, at most, 8 percent of Turkey’s electricity requirements. The future of the project will depend on the course of Russia-Turkey relations. With Akkuyu feeding Turkey’s energy sector, will increase its energy dependence on Russia. Russia is already the largest supplier of natural gas to Turkey’s and is the third largest supplier of petroleum to the country. With a 15-year purchase guarantee, TETAŞ guarantees 70% of the energy produced in the first unit and 30% of the energy produced in the 3rd and 4th units.
There is no clear policy on reducing nuclear energy dependency in the European Union. At present, there are nuclear power plants in 14 EU countries, and nuclear energy accounts for 30% of Europe’s energy needs. Nuclear power is preferred in some EU countries to reduce carbon emissions, but after the 2011 Fukushima disaster, very serious opposition to nuclear reactors has occurred in many countries. Serious rules and control mechanisms have been established concerning safety, radiation protection, transport, storage and management of radioactive waste. Germany has decided to shut down eight of its 17 reactors by 2022. The Italian government has made it a state policy to not establish a nuclear energy reactor in its country. Switzerland and Spain have halted the construction of a new reactor.
Nuclear reactors are conventionally cooled with water reaching a temperature of about 300 degrees Celsius. Reactors that require high amounts of cooling water are therefore usually built in river basins or near the sea. In reactors that use water as a coolant, any accident that may occur in the cooling system causes the reactor to recover and is therefore considered to be very risky. It is known that power plants that require much less cooling water or more modern and less risky power plants are being developed by the United States and Russia in particular. In plants where the conventional reactor cooling method has not been changed, solely environmental and external factors based precautions and accidental disasters have proved ineffective.
The disaster that occurred at the Fukushima Daichi Power Plant in 2011 was caused by the fact that the cooling system was totally destroyed because of a 7.9 magnitude earthquake affecting the power plant. This resulted in the forced abandonment of 50,000 homes within a 12-mile radius. Scientific studies show that hundreds of people who have lived in the region following the disaster, have consumed contaminated food and water and have an increased risk of cancer. The effects of the accident are still affecting the Pacific Ocean.
Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant’s Environmental Impact Assessment report on Turkey Union of Chambers of Engineers and Architects of Environmental Engineers were investigated in 2014 by the Chamber. The report prepared as a result of the review has been made public. This clearly shows that the reactor is designed as a conventional type reactor and will use water for cooling purposes.
The Akkuyu plant’s distance to Cyprus is approximately 90 km. A nuclear accident will have a huge impact on Cyprus and the Mediterranean. It is claimed that the facility will be resistant to earthquakes. However, it is stated that four pipelines will be installed on the sea bed for cooling water discharge, and the industrial water need of the plant will be 415 m3 / hour during the operating period. When continuous water supply is needed, it is stated that all water needs will be met continuously by desalination facilities. It is understood that the water temperature will rise to 340 degrees because the cooling water is discharged into the sea in summer months. Other highlights of the report include:
“The effect of increasing temperature on aquatic organisms will be deadly. Young fish and some species will disappear completely, dissolved oxygen concentration will decrease and ecosystem destruction will take place in the Mediterranean.
“1 ton of nuclear fuel to be used in the plant will turn 998 kilograms into radioactive and toxic waste. The spent nuclear fuel (waste) has a high level radioactivity and the radioactive decay process continues for a long time after being removed from the reactor. Used fuel is kept in the fuel pool for 10 years and is constantly cooled with water. The storage and efflux of waste will last for centuries. For centuries, this guard duty is not an acceptable lifestyle for people and all other living things.
“For mankind and all living creatures, the two biggest problems of the 21st century are global warming and nuclear threat. The development of alternative energy sources and investment in renewable energies should be top priority. Decisions taken by the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the Mediterranean island has left us faced with a very serious risk. Unfortunately, as Cypriots, we must now begin to learn to live with nuclear threats. It has become imperative for your government to form a government policy on nuclear risks as soon as possible.”