Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz has said that the controversial Akkuyu nuclear power plant being constructed in Mersin province, will be built to be earthquake-resistant for tremors of up to 9.0 on the Richter scale.
Addressing the Young Turkey Summit on Renewable Energy Sources, Yildiz acknowledged that the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant disaster had done nothing to quash the on-going debate about the cost benefits of using nuclear power.
He made assurances that Akkuyu power plant would be the securest structure in Turkey.
Yildiz pointed out that only four countries had put a ban on using nuclear fuel, while fourteen other countries continued with nuclear power projects.
Turkey’s energy demand has been growing alongside its economy, he said. The government envisages an industrial-based economy which will increase the demand for energy. Since the country lacks natural resources, Turkey is forced to diversify energy supplies and work with different options to satisfy the demand of local investments.
He said that the budget reserved for safety systems for the new plant is higher than the budget of electricity production worldwide. Adding that international authorities would not allow a country to reduce nuclear safety to lower costs. “Whether we like it or not, this is going to be the most secure building in Turkey,” said Yildiz.
Noting that of the 442 nuclear power plants in the world, half are located in the U.S., France and Japan, Yildiz said that the 10 strongest economies in the world have nuclear power plants. 30 countries have nuclear power plants and some of those countries are also members of the G20.
He also emphasised that reality and perceptions here are different, and while one country announced that they would give up on nuclear energy in 2021, the main reason behind this is because the lifetime of the plants will expire. “Closing a nuclear plant whose lifetime has expired does not mean giving up on nuclear energy,” he said. He did not name the country, however, it is known that Germany announced that it would shut down its nuclear power plants, estimated to cost 37 billion euros ($39 billion) to cover electricity demand.
The nuclear power plant to be built in Akkuyu will consist of four units, each of which will be able to generate 1,200 megawatts of power. The power plant, which is being constructed by Russian state-run atomic energy corporation Rosatom, is expected to produce approximately 35 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year after its construction is completed, and its service life is expected to be 60 years.
Yildiz pointed out that projects of such scale don’t just affect the next 10 to 20 years, but 100 years and gave the example of South Korea as a country that started using nuclear energy on the way to becoming a global economic power.
He added that Turkey, as a developing country, could not have a shrinking energy sector, so it needs to improve and expand its energy sector. He also said that while crude oil and natural gas are grounds for war underground, they are grounds for peace aboveground and that 85% of the world still uses fossil fuels.
Underlining that environmental pollution and climate change are problems for the whole world, Yildiz said that all of Turkey’s energy policies take the climate into consideration.
“We want our energy policies to be realised with the environment, not against it. Average temperatures in the world are expected to increase by 2 degrees. If growth figures in the world are realized as estimated, then the figures might increase in the next 25 years,” he said. He added that currently there is a great imbalance in world energy consumption figures, as New York with a population of 19.5 million consumes the same amount of energy as the African Sahara with a population of 890 million, excluding South Africa. “There are 1.3 billion people in the world who still have no access to energy,” Yildiz said. He noted that since $2 trillion of investment is required for global growth and that combined global gross national product is around $77 trillion, the importance of investments in the energy sector is evident.
Turkey is the fastest growing country in terms of energy after China, and due to developments over the last 10 years and improvements in shale gas, the global energy sector has changed.
Yildiz pointed out that electricity obtained from coal is 43% of electricity production in Germany and will increase to 51% by 2021, while in Turkey there is a perception that Turkey does not benefit from renewable resources, which does not reflect the truth. “The fact is 28% of the energy consumed in Turkey is obtained from coal, while 25% is from renewable energy resources. We consume twice the renewable energy of European countries. We need to explain our programme properly,” he said.
Finally, Yildiz also emphasised that Turkey sells its citizens cheaper natural gas than EU countries and is the third-cheapest country for electricity. “This is because we have covered the needs with renewable energy, since we are not a crude oil or natural gas rich country,” he concluded.