Energy minister announces date to shutdown nuclear plants

This photo shows a nuclear power plant in Switzerland. Turkey has no power plants yet. AFP photo

Turkey has yet begun the construction work for the first of its at least two planned nuclear power plants, but the country’s Energy Minister already has a date to shut them down.

“We will shutdown the nuclear power plants to be built in Akkuyu, Mersin and Sinop in 2071, the 1,000th anniversary of the Battle of Manzikert,” Energy Minister Taner Yıldız told Radikal in the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri, where he tops the parliamentary candidates list for the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

The Battle of Manzikert was fought between the Byzantine Empire and Seljuq Turks led by Alp Arslan in August 1071 near Manzikert, modern Malazgirt in the eastern province of Muş. The decisive defeat of the Byzantine army and the capture of the Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes played an important role in undermining Byzantine authority in Anatolia and allowed Turks to gradually populate Anatolia.

Yıldız said all security precautions have been considered for the nuclear power plants and no one should wrongly interpret Germany’s decision to shutdown its nuclear plants in 2022.

“If the nuclear plants are so dangerous, why don’t they shut them down immediately instead of waiting till 2022?” said Yıldız. “The plants to be closed are 30-40 years old and will have completed their economic life. There are 26 nuclear power plants around the world, which I believe all should be shutdown on that date.”

Turkey has agreed with Russia’s Rosatom and signed a contract one year ago to build its first nuclear plant, which will have four reactors, in the Mediterranean province of Mersin’s Akkuyu district. The licensing process for the plant, which will cost about $20 billion, is still in progress.

The government is also holding talks on the planned Sinop plant. Before the Japanese earthquake, Japanese companies seemed to be ahead on a possible decision. Turkey and Japan signed a memorandum on civil nuclear cooperation last December, but the plans have been put on hold since the Fukusihima disaster.

Still, the energy minister already has a date in mind to shutdown the two power plants. “You can directly quote me on this; we are planning to shut down our nuclear plants on 2071, on the 1,000th anniversary of the historical victory in Malazgirt.”

Yıldız believes the ruling AKP, the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, agree on the country’s nuclear policies, which are opposed by environmentalists. All three parties defend nuclear power plants in their election manifestos, Yıldız said, adding the CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu voices different ideas when he is on television.

“The CHP is telling the truth in its election manifesto, but Kılıçdaroğlu is saying just the opposite,” said Yıldız. “I do not want to use any bad words; this can be a sign of being tired. Such major mistakes overshadow the dignity of politics. I’m ready to sincerely brief Kılıçdaroğlu and tell him about the fundamentals of nuclear power.”

The energy minister said there is major “con” on nuclear energy, recalling four former executives of the environmental organization Greenpeace who are now working for the nuclear energy sector. “More than half of Turkish people support nuclear energy and we will start a public relations campaign to remove some misunderstandings.”

HDN