Turkey's Akkuyu nuclear plant in danger due to lack of oversight - experts

Work on Turkey’s first nuclear power plant in the southern coastal area of Akkuyu is being carried out without proper inspections and could lead to disastrous consequences, local geological engineering association head Erkan Demir told pro-Kurdish daily Yeni Yaşam.

Reports on the Akkuyu plant’s construction have raised serious fears since it began in 2018, with news in May of fissures opening in the foundations twice followed by a report in left-wing daily BirGün in July raising concerns about the location of the site and suggesting that the contractors involved did not have sufficient experience of a project of its type.

Demir said the contractors were approaching the plant as if it were an ordinary construction project, rather than a sophisticated feat of engineering.

The dangers raised by this had been compounded by a total lack of necessary inspections, said the geological engineer, who is also an activist at a local anti-nuclear platform.

Rosatom, the Russian company that is constructing the Akkuyu plant, says the plant is being constructed to international standards, surveyed by Turkey’s Atomic Energy Authority and French independent assessors, and will be built to withstand a magnitude nine earthquake.

But critics have said that the site should be opened to inspection by independent experts.

Demir said his geological engineering association had asked for permission to inspect the site, but had been denied.

Efforts to raise concerns over the suitability of the land chosen for the plant during its planning phase were also ignored, Demir said.

“Together with several expert authorities on the matter, we tried to present our data on the serious risks related to the foundations of the plant under construction in Akkuyu, as well as a lot of scientific evidence that the site was not suitable”, Demir said.

Later, after the construction began, the association raised the issue with parliament after cracks opened twice in the plant’s foundations.

“There (at parliament) we learned that the construction was going ahead with a frightening lack of oversight. They’re building a nuclear power station, and all the huge dangers it entails, with the approach of a typical building contractor”, he said.

Alpay Antmen, a deputy for the main opposition Republican People’s Party, told Emirati newspaper the National of his party’s concerns about the site’s safety.

“In this region there are a lot of caves and it’s likely that there are caves under the Akkuyu site”, he said. “The company say the cracks in the cement had nothing to do with the ground. If they are sincere, they should allow independent assessors on to the site to verify what’s going on.”

Chamber of Engineers and Architects of Turkey spokesman Emre Üresin told the National that the site had been chosen decades ago, and plans should have been updated since then.

“How can this area, which can’t even sustain the base, carry the weight of a nuclear reactor? Akkuyu was chosen as the location in the 1970s – a decision made due to 1970s technology. Since that time technology has improved dramatically so the site should have been reassessed with this new knowledge”, Üresin said.

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