Understanding Turkish Nuclear Energy

Catherine Dawson
March 15, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2016


Fig. 1: Tectonic map of Turkey. (Courtesy of the USGS. Source: Wikimedia Commons)

To date, Turkey does not have an operating nuclear power plant. Nonetheless, the Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz is a large proponent of such developments. [1] In his eyes, "Development cannot happen in a country without nuclear energy." [2] The argument for implementing nuclear power plants is that it will help boost Turkish economy and minimize their dependence on fossil fuel imports. [6] Advocates of nuclear power estimate that $14 billion spent on natural gas could have been saved over the past ten years; and, nuclear power would account for 28% of Turkey's electricity needs. [3] Geographically, it is important to note that Turkey sits on a highly-active earthquake-prone zone. Fig. 1 provides an overview of the tectonic topography of Turkey. The country sits on the North Anatolian fault, East Anatolian fault, Florence and Hellenic trenches.

In 2010, following a 2007 bill allowing for the construction of nuclear power plants, the first plan for a power plant materialized. 2013 and 2015 have ushered in similar agreements, and now there are three projected nuclear power plants throughout the country. Each of these projected sights are funded, built, and overseen by non-Turkish companies. The dealings involved with these arrangements by-in-large have occurred solely between Turkish Energy officials and international companies. As a result, multiple protests and demonstrations have occurred throughout the country.

International Sponsorship and Oversight

Plans for the first nuclear power plant - Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant - arose from an agreement between Turkey and Russia. The agreement specified that the Russian nuclear state corporation Rosatom would fund, construct, run, and own the nuclear plant in Akkuyu, Turkey. One of the main arguments for nuclear power in Turkey is that it will reduce reliance on Russian gas for electricity. [4] Thus, it is curious to note that as the country seeks to loosen reliance on Russian energy, a federal Russian company will completely operate and own Turkey's first nuclear station. The second power plant agreement - to create the Sinop Nuclear Power Plant - emerged from a project deal between the Turkish and Japanese prime ministers. Sinop is a city in northern Turkey that sits on the southern edge of the Black Sea. The country deemed Japanese partnership invaluable as they have experience with earthquake-safe technologies. [5] Since the initial agreement, France has entered the deal as well, resulting in Japanese-French collaboration. Lastly and most recently, a third nuclear power plant is being discussed in Igneada, a district on the country's northwestern coast. Not only is this district a tourist destination with esteemed natural beauty, but also a home to a national park. Ethical questions regarding environmental impact and effect on tourism have responded to this proposal.

Fig. 2: Greenpeace nuclear power plant protest banner. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)


Nuclear power plant proposals have been met with immense pushback. [3] Even before construction on the first power plant had begun in Akkuyu, thousands of demonstrators from across the country congregated in Sinop to oppose the plans. They protested the cost of the plant, stating they "want universities, not nuclear plants," and its environmental risk. [1] Moreover, the organization Greenpeace is extremely vocal against nuclear power plant plans. A nuclear plant protest banner sponsored by Greenpeace at a soccer match in Turkey can be seen in Fig. 2. They are also critical about safety risks and building the plant in an area with rich wildlife. [1] The organization argues that the country "is still missing the key pieces of necessary legislation" and the assessment of seismic volatility is "totally inadequate."


In conclusion, nuclear energy is an extremely new and contentious topic in Turkey. The country is geographically susceptible to earthquakes, caught between delicate political relations with neighboring countries, and is coming out of a period of economic volatility. Nuclear plants are an expensive endeavor, and instituting multiple plants with foreign owners proves a complicated process. Nonetheless, Turkey is currently in the process of heightened nuclear power development. Tensions as well as expansions are sure to mount in the coming months as nuclear progress continues.

© Catherine Dawson. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "Protests as Turkey Builds First Nuclear Power Plant," Deutsche Welle, 14 Apr 15.

[2] O. Karaduman, "Nuclear Power in Turkey - Steps Taken & Steps Ahead," Power Engineering, 22 Jun 15.

[3] "Thousands Protest Against Planned Nuclear Nlant," Hurriyet Daily News, 1 May 06.

[4] Z. Doğan, "Energy Deals May Make Turkey Irreversibly Reliant on Moscow," Al-Monitor, 12 Dec 14.

[5] "Turkey Plans to Build Nuclear Power Plant Close to Border with Bulgaria," Novinite, 14 Oct 15.

[6] F. Martel, "Protests, Controversy as Turkey Breaks Ground on First Power Plant," Breitbart, 15 Apr 15.