A huge nuclear power station is being built on Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coastline, sparking a long-running discussion locally and in neighboring Cyprus. This debate was previously stifled by a terrible earthquake that toppled buildings throughout Turkey and neighboring Syria.
The plant’s location in Akkuyu, around 210 miles (338 kilometers) to the west of the earthquake’s epicenter, is being built to withstand strong tremors. Therefore, it was unaffected by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake and its aftershocks.
Yet, the magnitude of the earthquake—the deadliest in modern Turkish history—heightened already-expressed worries about the facility’s proximity to a significant fault line.
According to Rosatom, the project’s state-owned contractor in Russia, the power plant is built to “withstand extreme external forces” like a magnitude nine earthquake.
Nuclear power stations are built to withstand more severe shaking than has ever been observed in the region where they are located.
According to Rosatom, the likelihood of a magnitude nine earthquake happening near the Akkuyu reactor “is roughly once in 10,000 years,” the company said in an email to The Associated Press last week.
“That is exactly how the concept of the margin of safety is being applied.”
When contacted by the AP, Turkey’s Energy Ministry representative stated that there were no imminent plans to reevaluate the project. By government policy, the official spoke on the condition of anonymity.
According to Andrew Whittaker, a professor of civil engineering at the University at Buffalo who specializes in earthquake engineering and nuclear structures, nuclear facilities are built of heavily reinforced concrete, are sized for significant earthquake shaking, and are significantly more durable than commercial buildings.
Given that it is located on the western end of the East Anatolian Fault, which has been linked to last week’s strong earthquake, Whittaker noted that it is likely that the design was tested for significant shaking.
Whittaker nevertheless suggested that it would be wise to reevaluate the region’s seismic hazard projections for all facilities, including the plant.
He said there’s nothing to worry about, but there’s always a good reason to exercise caution.
This is little consolation for campaigners in Turkey and on both sides of the racially divided island of Cyprus.
They have re-iterated their requests for the project to be abandoned, arguing that the catastrophic earthquake is irrefutable evidence of the severe dangers of building a nuclear power station close to seismic fault lines.
Over 50 Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot environmentalist organizations, labor unions, and political parties came together to form the Cyprus Anti-Nuclear Platform, which stated to the Associated Press that it “calls on all political parties, scientific and environmental organizations, and the civil society to join efforts and put pressure on the Turkish government to terminate its plans for the Akkuyu nuclear power plant.”
Demetris Papadakis, a member of the European Parliament from Cyprus, enquired about the European Commission’s plans for quick action.