ISTANBUL—Turkey's first-ever nuclear power plant is about to be built in the Southeastern town of Akkuyu, more than three decades after the government first licensed the site.
But in the wake of the Japan crisis, opponents of the reactor are once again cautioning the government to drop the project.
"I'm not against nuclear power," said Tolga Yarman, a professor in the nuclear engineering department of Istanbul's Okan University, and one of the original nuclear engineers who signed off on the Akkuyu site license in 1976. "I'm simply against ignorant nuclear planning."
In explaining his reversal, Yarman told SolveClimate News: "The conditions of the area — as we know them — are completely different now, and new criteria have evolved."
The reactor, to be majority-owned by Russia's Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, would lie 16 miles from the Ecemis fault line where the Eurasian and African tectonic plates meet. When the license was issued in 1976, the fault was believed to be inactive. But studies published in science journals in the decades since have shown it to be active.
In a March 14 statement, a few days following the quake in Japan, Turkey's Chamber of Electrical Engineers condemned the Akkuyu plant because of the area's proximity to the fault.
Similarly, the government of Cyprus, the island country off the southern shore of Turkey, announced earlier this week that it would ask the European Union to stop Turkey from building the Akkuyu facility on grounds the earthquake risk is too great.
But the government's plans seem unlikely to change.
At a press conference on March 12, Turkey's energy minister, Taner Yildiz, said that construction in Akkuyu could begin in the next three months. This week, he stated the country "will accelerate" the estimated seven-year construction period "as much as possible."
Days after the Fukushima disaster, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed to the press the country's commitment to build this first reactor, and said the nation would have three functioning nuclear power plants by 2023.
The Ministry of Energy did not return repeated calls and emails for comment.
Critics Take Aim at Reactor Type, Radioactive Waste
In addition to the seismic risk, critics of the project are also taking aim at the choice of reactor type, the VVER 1200. It has never been built before, though versions of it are currently under construction at two sites in Russia. The VVER 1200 is third-generation technology and is generally considered safer than the world's current fleet of reactors.
Andrey Bukhovtsev, a spokesperson for Rosatom, said the design "takes full account of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] recommendations, and broadly uses additional passive safety systems in combination with traditional active systems."
The waste issue is another concern. Local observers say there hasn't been any clear explanation of how Rosatom will dispose of the radioactive byproduct generated by the plant.