atw 2018-05v6


atw Vol. 63 (2018) | Issue 5 ı May




John Shepherd



3 Brooklands

West Sussex

BN43 5FE,

United Kingdom

Links to reference


IAEA announcement

on Akkuyu


Der Spiegel

JAIF report

Joe Lassiter article


Nuclear Newcomer Turkey and ‘Comeback

Kid’ Japan Show the Way Ahead

Around 20 years ago, when I took my first tentative steps into writing about the nuclear sector there was one

story that cropped up again and again – and I was frequently told: “Forget that – it will never happen, they’ve been

talking about it for years.”

The subject was Turkey and its desire to build the country’s

first nuclear power plant. Many of those I encountered in

my early nuclear years and who had much more experience

could list a myriad of reasons why Turkey’s ambition would

probably not come to pass.

The mainstream media too, I recall, was less than

enthusiastic about Turkey going nuclear. One such article

I’ve managed to dig up from Germany’s Der Spiegel in 2008

asked of Turkey’s nuclear aspirations: “In a country prone

to earthquakes, is it safe?” The article went on to say:

“By acquiring nuclear energy, the country hopes to make

itself independent of its main energy suppliers, Russia

and Iran.”

Well fast forward to today and think again! In early

April, Turkey finally reported the start of construction of its

first nuclear power plant to the International Atomic Energy

Agency’s (IAEA) Power Reactor Information System. First

safety-related concrete was poured for unit 1 of the Akkuyu

nuclear power plant on 3 April, following the granting

of a construction license by the Turkish Atomic Energy

Authority the day before.

Four units are planned at the site on the Mediterranean

coast, 500 kilometres south of Ankara, all scheduled to

be in operation by 2026. Akkuyu will apparently have a

total installed generating capacity of 4,800 megawatts

( electrical) (MWe). The technology will be Russian

VVER following an agreement between Russia and

Turkey to build and operate the plant at the Akkuyu site

signed in May 2010.

So much for that 2008 article reflecting on how Turkey

wanted “energy independence” from Russia! Politics

makes strange bedfellows, but let’s leave politics aside for

now. Turkey has become the fourth country in recent years

to have started construction of its first nuclear power plant,

following the United Arab Emirates in 2012, Belarus in

2013, and Bangladesh in 2017.

There was progress too on the international nuclear

front in April from Japan, where Kansai Electric Power

Company confirmed that the third unit of its Ohi nuclear

power plant, in Fukui Prefecture, had resumed commercial


According to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF),

the Ohi-3 PWR had been restarted on 14 March and was

followed by Kyushu Electric Power Co’s Genkai-3 PWR

restart on 23 March.

JAIF said the restarts brought the total number of the

country’s nuclear reactor units clearing the country’s new

post-2011 safety regulations to seven.

Japan was another country ‘written off’ by the nuclear

naysayers just seven short years ago after the earthquake

and tsunami led to the Fukushima nuclear accident.

In a related move, JAIF said as of 26 March, the Russian

government had lifted almost all prohibitions on marine

products from Japan that had been introduced due to fear

of radioactive contamination following the accident.

Some countries had seized on the most recent accident

in nuclear history to justify their own attempts to kill off

nuclear at any cost and for spurious reasons. Yet Japan is

‘back in the game’.

Both Japan and Turkey highlight the art of the possible.

They also underline the planet’s continuing, undeniable

need for nuclear to remain a part of the energy mix.

With the future in mind, the IAEA has formed a technical

working group to push ahead with work on small, mediumsized

or modular reactors (SMRs) and to provide a forum

for the agency’s member states to share information and

knowledge. By the time you read this article, the first

meeting of the group, comprising some 20 IAEA member

states and international organisations, is likely to have

been held in Vienna.

According to IAEA deputy director-general Mikhail

Chudakov, who heads the agency’s Department of Nuclear

Energy: “Innovation is crucial for nuclear power to play a

key role in decarbonising the energy sector. Many member

states that are operating, expanding, introducing or

considering nuclear power are quite keen on the

development and deployment of SMRs.”

The first three advanced SMRs are expected to begin

commercial operation in Argentina, China and Russia

between 2018 and 2020, the IAEA has said. “SMR

development is also well advanced in about a dozen other


In a recent Op-Ed for the Harvard Business School

Joe Lassiter, who is a faculty fellow of the Harvard

Environmental Economics Program and a faculty associate

of the Harvard University Center for the Environment, said:

“I have high hopes for the promising technology category

known as “new nuclear,” which offers the potential to

dramatically reduce costs and rapidly ramp up installations

when compared to today’s nuclear power plants. But

the success of new nuclear – and perhaps the future of the

planet – requires big, immediate investments from the

private sector.”

Lassiter said that while he is “all for renewables, I

believe every effort should be made to make nuclear power

one of the world’s low-cost alternatives for meeting the

urgent demand for power while winning the race with

fossil fuels”. This is especially the case in Asia, “where the

demand for energy is so pressing and the resulting fossil

fuel CO 2 emissions are forecast to grow for the foreseeable

future”, Lassiter said.

Lassiter’s article is spot on and should be recommended

reading to nuclear industry leaders and policymakers.

There will of course be setbacks (challenges) along the

way in any venture. That’s life and that’s how we learn. But

the nuclear industry would be in a dark place today if it

had given in to those who talked down the aspirations of

countries such as Turkey – or given in to those who said the

accident in Japan meant it was time for the world to turn

its back on nuclear.

I believe that nuclear’s best days are yet to come. But

that will require vision and determination and an

unwavering commitment to grow the industry safely for

the benefit of all.

Nuclear Today

Nuclear Newcomer Turkey and ‘Comeback Kid’ Japan Show the Way Ahead ı H. Breitkreutz, J. Shi, R. Jungwirth, T. Zweifel, H.-Y. Chiang and W. Petry

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