Protests as Turkey Starts Work on First Nuclear Power Plant
Turkey on Tuesday launched construction of its first nuclear power plant which Ankara hopes will open a new era of greater energy self-sufficiency, but the ceremony was marred by angry protests against the controversial $20 billion project.
After the launch ceremony, dozens of environmental protesters converged on the iron gates of the site in Akkuyu in Mersin province on the shores of the Mediterranean.
They managed to lock in the official delegations, security forces and journalists inside the site and were only dispersed when a water cannon truck was used against them, video footage showed.
The power station — which will have four power units with a capacity of 1200 MW each — is being built like Iran’s first nuclear power plant by Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom.
“Development cannot happen in a country without nuclear energy,” said Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz at a ceremony attended by the head of Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko and other top officials.
Yildiz vehemently rejected that Turkey was entering the nuclear power sector at the wrong time after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011 and with Germany phasing out its nuclear power.
The Akkuyu plant has become a bete noire for environmentalists who have raised alarm about safety is …
“All sectors (of the industry) have learned lessons from Fukushima. Akkuyu power station has also learned lessons,” he said.
Yildiz said that the power station would pose no threat to tourism on Turkey’s sun-drenched Mediterranean coast, saying the use of nuclear power in Spain and France had not harmed tourism there.
The authorities have gone on a publicity offensive to promote the plant, with television commercials and billboards showing happy children running and cycling in a bucolic landscape under the shadow of the power station.
“Akkuyu nuclear power station: a new energy for a powerful Turkey,” said a full page advertisement in Tuesday’s newspapers.
Akkuyu is the first of three nuclear power plants Turkey currently plans to build to reduce its dependence on importing energy from oil and gas exporters like Russia and Iran.