Akkuyu NPP: Turkiye's unwavering political will enables witnessing historical moments
Turkiye, one of the 20 biggest economies in the world, has tried its best to be independent of foreign energy or at least to reduce its dependency. However, the rapid increase in population and fast economic growth made it tough for the Turkish authorities. Due to dependency on energy, Turkish foreign trade turnover resulted in a negative trade balance which in turn affected the whole Turkish economy, especially the Turkish national currency Lira.
Despite many efforts since a long time in Turkiye, this issue has not been succeeded until Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who made miracles in the Turkish economy by increasing its GDP 4 times over 20 years; and today, it is much more determined to overcome the issue.
It is observed that the process of being independent in energy has been accelerated much more this month, especially before the election. In the ranks of its domestic energy, so to speak, Turkiye has witnessed historical moments in April, first-up with the commissioning of Gas found in the Black Sea, and later with the first fuel delivery for Akkuyu Nuclear Plant.
The history of Turkish nuclear activities dates to the 1950s. Turkiye tried to construct its first NPP in the 1970s in Akkuyu and even got a license for it, but unfortunately, this project failed. Electricity consumption is predicted to increase to 380.2 TWh in 2025, 455.3 TWh in 2030, and 510.5 TWh in 2035 in Turkiye and since NPPs generate electricity continuously regardless of weather conditions and their capacity factor is around 90 percent the Akkuyu project restarted under AKP government.
The decisive activities of AKP were hailed in the region and Turkiye, but at the same time, it caused discussions about impacts on the Turkish economy, ecology, and society. Speaking to Azernews, Turkish economist Yusuf Dinc noted that from a point of social view, the building and operation of NPPs can generate employment and investment opportunities in the area. Due to the specialized nature of the work required for constructing and maintaining NPPs, higher salaries, and benefits may be offered, thus having a positive impact on the local economy.
“As for ecology, fossil fuels are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change. However, NPPs produce virtually no air-polluting or greenhouse gases, making them one of the few energy production methods with minimal environmental impact. Given Turkiye's environmental challenges, such as increasing CO2 emissions, NPPs could be a viable solution to address issues like climate change,” Yusuf Dinc said.
He also pointed out that the rise in global warming has led countries to seek alternative methods to produce electricity that have a lower carbon footprint. As a result, there has been a shift towards reducing the use of oil and increasing the use of nuclear energy to generate electricity. This is because nuclear energy is a cleaner and more efficient source of energy compared to fossil fuels.
“Additionally, nuclear power plants produce a significantly smaller amount of carbon emissions compared to other forms of power generation, making them an attractive option for countries looking to reduce their carbon footprint and combat climate change. Therefore, NPPs must be viewed as one part of a larger energy strategy, which also includes energy efficiency and renewable energy sources,” the economist emphasized.
Touching upon negative impacts on Turkiye’s ecology, Y.Dinc pointed out that despite the potential benefits of nuclear power, there are also significant challenges.
“There are serious environmental risks associated with nuclear power, including the potential for radiation leaks and contamination that can harm both the natural environment and the health of local communities. Furthermore, nuclear energy production creates radioactive waste that must be safely stored and disposed of for thousands of years. Finally, the vulnerability of NPPs to natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis is also a significant concern, particularly given that the Akkuyu site is located in an active earthquake zone in the Mediterranean region, further raising concerns about the potential ecological impact of nuclear power in Türkiye,” the expert said.
However, he also emphasised relative institutions and organisations of Turkiye, which are concerned about the above issues, and have taken relative preventive measures relating to it.
As for its impacts on the Turkish economy, he said that NPPs can provide a stable and secure energy source for Turkiye, decreasing the country's dependency on imported oil and natural gas. According to Dinc, this, in turn, can improve energy supply security and, ultimately, the security of the nation. Furthermore, nuclear energy is expected to account for 20 percent of total energy consumption by 2030 in Turkiye, the expert said, adding that currently, there is only one nuclear power plant - the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, which is being built by Rosatom and is projected to become operational in 2023.
“This plant will have a capacity of 4.8 GW and is estimated to meet 10% of Turkiye 's electricity needs. The Turkish Energy Model is utilized to make new investment decisions aimed at reducing the total system cost and determining the use of resources. It is expected that the total installed capacity of NPPs in Turkiye's energy system will increase to 7.2 GW by 2035. While NPPs can help meet Turkiye's energy demands, they will not necessarily reduce the overall energy demand. In fact, the demand for energy is likely to continue to grow as the country's economy continues to expand,” he said.
He noted that under this NPPs project, Turkiye plans to build four nuclear reactors in order to diversify its energy sources. The implementation of these NPPs will allow Turkiye to reduce its natural gas imports by $1.5bn from just the first reactor and by $10bn from all reactors combined. The noteworthy point is that Turkiye has guaranteed to purchase 50 percent of the electricity produced by the reactors at a lower cost than the market price—70 percent from the first two reactors and 30 percent from the remaining two reactors.
“The construction and operation of NPPs in Turkiye must be viewed through a balanced lens, considering both the benefits and the potential negative impacts. While NPPs can provide a reliable and secure source of energy and create job opportunities, they can also be expensive and have negative environmental and societal impacts. However, it is worth mentioning that the strategic and careful measures taken by the government will help to mitigate all the possible challenges regarding the establishment of NPPs in Turkiye. Nonetheless, as part of the long-run plan, it is crucial that Turkiye carefully considers its energy needs and explores a variety of options, including energy efficiency and renewable energy, in addition to NPPs, to ensure a sustainable energy future,” he concluded.
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