Turkey’s First Nuclear Plant Faces Earthquake and Environmental Concerns Ahead of Opening

Built by Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation, Turkey’s first-ever nuclear power plant is set to open in Akkuyu, Mersin, on the country’s Mediterranean coast.

With a fuel loading ceremony on April 27, the plant will be officially granted nuclear facility status, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced in late March.

The project began with a 2010 intergovernmental agreement between Ankara and Moscow.

Planned to have an installed capacity of 4,800 megawatts and four reactors, the plant is expected to begin producing power later in the year. At full capacity, the plant will meet 10 percent of Turkey’s electricity demand, says the government.

Last year, Turkey consumed 378 terawatts of electricity, which will, according to Energy Ministry estimates, exceed 500 terawatts by 2035.

In case of an accident or a nuclear disaster, Turkey will be responsible to all Mediterranean countries, according to the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy and the Barcelona Convention. Turkey ratified the agreements in 2022 and 2002, respectively.

In an online petition against the project, the Eastern Mediterranean Environmental Associations described the inauguration as an “election move” by President Recep TayyipErdoğan ahead of the May 14 polls.

“We think this is a political move. The plant will not operate with the delivery of the fuel because its construction has not yet been completed,” said the platform, which has waged a legal fight against the plant for years.

Earthquake risk

Along with environmental concerns, earthquake risk has been at the center of arguments against the construction of the plant due to the fault lines in the vicinity of Mersin, especially in the wake of the massive February earthquakes that claimed over 50,000 lives in Turkey’s south and southeast.

The Karataş Fault Line stretching from the adjacent city of Adana to Hatay, the Cyprus Fault Line in the south and the Ölüdeniz Fault Line in Turkey’s northwest are the active fault lines near the plant.

A fault line that is considered inactive may also pose a danger, according to some experts. The Ecemiş Fault Line between the Central Anatolian province of Kayseri and Mersin hasn’t produced an earthquake for about 17,000 years. This last one was the third of the earthquakes greater than magnitude 7, which occurred in intervals of around 10,000 years.

The government has dismissed criticism over earthquake risk, noting that Akkuyu is located in the least-risky 5th-degree earthquake zone in the country, citing a study from the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ/METU), one of Turkey’s most prestigious universities.