|Fig. 1: Mersin Province, Turkey. Location of Akkuyu Nuclear Plant. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
Currently, Turkey does not produce nuclear energy, as a nuclear plant has never been operational in its history. Turkey imports much of its energy, including an estimated 98% of its natural gas and 93% of its oil. This is largely because geography makes it inherently susceptible to earthquakes, providing obstacles in constructing a nuclear plant.  Some of the country's biggest priorities include improving energy efficiency and security, decreasing reliance on imported energy. Nuclear power is a major key for Turkey's economic growth, and that the country aims to reduce its reliance on Russian and Iranian gas as a source of electricity.  Efforts were made in the 1970s to contract a nuclear energy plant in Turkey, but none of the proposed plans were enacted, in part due to lack of government finances. 
The Akkuyu nuclear power plant will introduce nuclear energy to Turkey. Along with the construction of Akkuyu, the country has plans to build a second nuclear plant in Sinop, in collaboration with the French and Japanese governments.  Plans for a third plant in Igneada were confirmed in 2015, with the nuclear reactor technology coming from China.
Akkuyu will be the first nuclear power plant to operate in Turkey, costing an estimated $20 billion. Its construction, in Mersin Province, shown in Fig. 1, is scheduled to begin in 2018 with the plant being fully operational in 2023.  The government chose this location because of its low population density and low risk for earthquakes. A Russian state-owned nuclear company, Rosatom, will build, own, and operate the plant.  Russian and Turkish heads of state signed a governmental agreement in May 2010 Rosatom created the project company called Akkuyu Electricity Generation JSC, and foreign investors can invest up to 49% of the company. The Turkish Electricity Trade and Contract Corporation (TETAS) will purchase a fixed portion of power generated from Akkuyu at $12.35 per kWh until 2030. The project company will sell the remainder of the power to the open market. 
|Fig. 2: Anti-nuclear human chain formed by Mersin residents in response to Akkuyu. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
The operation of Akkuyu would reduce Turkey's dependence on imported energy. However, the plant's construction has caused major concerns among citizens. Notably, environmental groups oppose Akkuyu because of the high hidden costs of nuclear in general and waste disposal problems that come along with it.  Additionally, Turkey's susceptibility to earthquakes creates unease. Akkuyu is designed to withstand earthquakes with a magnitude of up to 6.5 on the Richter scale, but there is always possibility of a larger one occurring, causing potential harm to the surrounding area and its citizens. In April 2011, once Akkuyu was approved by the government, Mersin residents formed an anti-nuclear human chain in the city to protest the decision, shown in Fig. 2. They protested the economic costs of the plant, expressing that they "want universities, not nuclear plants".  Thus, as nuclear becomes more prevalent in Turkey, the reduced reliance on foreign countries for energy may be coupled with citizens unhappy about the economic and environmental impact of the projects.
© Madie Chou. 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.
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