Erdoğan becomes sole authority over Turkey’s nuclear energy

This article originally published on Turkish online news site artıgerçek, and translated from it. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has become the sole control of the newly established Nuclear Regulatory Authority with the Decree No. 702 published on July 9th 2018.

Last week Erdoğan's new cabinet published many changes in the structure and functioning of the institutions of the Republic of Turkey, some in violation of the constitution, including a new decree regulating the organisation and duties of a newly established Nuclear Regulatory Authority.

With the new regulation, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (Nükleer Düzenleme Kurumu or NDK) will be the only authorised body in Turkey regarding nuclear energy.

This decree contains many objectionable regulations regarding the future of nuclear energy in Turkey. The critically important institution that will regulate highly technical and multidimensional investments and production according to the new law will have no oversight from any organisation other than the president himself.

The newly established NDK will have complete administrative and financial autonomy. The president will determine the duties and authorities of the institution.

According to the law, the administrative body of the institution, the Nuclear Regulatory Board, will have five members, all appointed by the president, making him the paramount role on all things related to nuclear energy in Turkey.

The law states the president can define the duties and responsibilities of the institution, determine the members of the board, determine the chairman, and can even decide on the salaries of its officials. Furthermore, the law does not describe the necessary qualifications of its officials other than saying they must be "competent people."

The law says the NDK, working directly under the control of the president, will be an independent institution, without clarifying how. The bill also fails to establish any control or accountability mechanism for the institution.

Russia began building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant at Akkuyu on the Mediterranean coast in April. The $20-billion project is due to come online in 2023, the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey.

Turkey Atomic Energy Agency (TAEK), the former official nuclear energy institution that will hand over most of its duties to NDK, will only be responsible for the disposal of nuclear waste from now on.

The law is also worded in a very peculiar way. For example, in the General Principles section, the law states activities should benefit "individuals or society". It is not clear what the law means by the term "individuals". If a project benefits one person, is that going to be enough to go ahead with the plan?

Another strange and risky chapter in the law leaves determining the toxic radiation doses to NDK. "The radioactive waste to be produced are to be kept at the lowest possible and reasonable level concerning quantity, volume and radioactivity," it says, without indicating the criteria for the lowest reasonable level.

The law also states that nuclear power plant sites will be transformed into waste storage areas. "Radioactive waste and used fuels generated during operation of the plants will be stored on the plant grounds for the duration of the business".

Russian firm Rosatom, which is building the Akkuyu power plant, said it would be moving the radioactive waste to Russia, so it is unclear why the law identifies the plant grounds for nuclear waste storage.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.