Turkish, Syrian nuclear plans draw controversy

Turkey‘s plans to build a coastal nuclear power plant close to an earthquake-prone area were strongly protested by Greece and Cyprus at a European Union summit on nuclear energy in Brussels this week, at which the 27-nation bloc agreed to a safety review of its 143 reactors. Turkey is standing firmly by plans to build three nuclear power plants in the years ahead—including one at Akkuyu on the Mediterranean coast, close to the Ecemis Fault, which an expert says could possibly generate a magnitude-7 quake. “Nuclear power for us is not an option because we are in a highly seismically active region,” Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said in Brussels.

Akkuyu is 100 kilometers north of the island of Cyprus, which has been divided between ethnic Greeks and Turks since 1974, when Turkey invaded. Turkey says the 1,200-megawatt Russian pressurized water reactor, the VVER-1200—a new model yet to be operated anywhere in the world—will be quake-proof. Turkey has already signed a deal with Russia’s Rosatom agency for the plant’s construction. “We are in an effort to realize everything in a plan with all security measures,” Prime Minister Tayyip Recep Erdogan said. “Turkey is becoming more powerful in industry and technology day by day. It is obvious that it will be in great need of power.”

Erdogan has repeatedly downplayed nuclear risks since the Fukushima disaster began in Japan, saying that all technology has risks. “In that case, let’s not bring gas canisters to our homes, let’s not install natural gas, let’s not stream crude oil through our country,” he said a few days after the Fukushima accident. “I wonder whether those who oppose nuclear energy do not use computers or watch television because of the radiation risk?”

Turkey’s neighbors Armenia (which suffered a devastating earthquake in 1988) and Bulgaria (which has experienced a spate of small earthquakes this year) already have nuclear plants. (AP, April 1)

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on April 1 visited the Homs acid purification facility in western Syria as part of an ongoing probe of the country’s suspected nuclear activities. The plant produces uranium ore as a byproduct, which with further processing could be used as nuclear fuel. Syria denies any nuclear weapons ambitions, but continues to deny UN inspectors the right to visit the Dair Alzour site bombed by Israel in 2007, where it is suspected that an undeclared nuclear reactor was under construction. (VOA, Reuters, April 1)

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