Foreign backers set to pull out of Turkish nuclear power project

The Japanese-French consortium that agreed to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey is set to abandon the project, a former nuclear inspector at the International Atomic Energy Agency said in an analysis for Greek newspaper Kathimerini on Thursday. 

The plant, set to be built with four reactors in Sinop province along the Black Sea, was to be Turkey's second nuclear power plant, following Akkuyu, currently under construction in cooperation with Russia's Rosatom

In 2013, Turkey signed a contract with Atmea, a Japanese-French consortium comprising Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Areva, for the construction of the Sinop plant, which included a build-operate-transfer scheme

According to a preliminary agreement, Atmea would own 51 percent of the Sinop plant, while Turkish state utilities company EUAS would take 49 percent and Engie, a French firm, would operate it.

Delays in launching construction have more than doubled the estimated costs, Pantelis Oikonomou, the former nuclear inspector, said, citing foreign news agencies. Tougher safety measures that came into force following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 have increased costs to $44 billion from $20 billion, while the slide of Turkey’s lira also contributed to the decision.

“It should be noted that the Turkey-Japan deal and the Turkey-Russia agreement for the construction of the Akkuyu power station in the southern province of Mersin both contain controversial clauses (articles 8 and 12 respectively) giving Ankara access to enriched uranium and plutonium,” said Oikonomou. Both materials are essential for building nuclear weapons. 

In addition to the setback in Sinop, there are also delays at the construction of Akkuyu, which started in April last year. So far only the foundation for Unit 1 has been laid, according to Oikonomou.