How did the AKP’s small modular nuclear good news make its way into the Table of Six’s Consensus Paper?
The highly anticipated "Common Policies Consensus Paper" of the Table of Six, an electoral alliance consisting of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Good Party, the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), the Future Party, the Felicity Party, and the Democrat Party, has finally been released.
The text, which will become binding if the Table of Six comes to power, can be characterized as a program that explains how to reinstate the structures of the parliamentary system, public, judiciary, executive, and democratic rights and freedoms that were overturned during the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) 20-year rule.
In a very general sense, the Consensus Paper contains many promises in areas where there has been a wide erosion and deep decay of trust and reputability.
In this article, we will look at what the Table of Six’s paper says and what it promises regarding the environment, nature, and living spaces which were subject to the greatest destruction, looting, plunder, and extortion during the 20-year AKP rule...
In the Consensus Paper, these issues were discussed under the title of Climate Change, Rights of Nature, and the Environment.
Let's start with things that I found to be positive, with the hope that the detailed means and implementation plans of the commitments will be shared later as I will say that some articles are too general as they stand.
The article which reads, “We will prepare realistic mitigation strategies by updating the National Contribution Declaration” regarding Turkey’s nationally determined contribution for the Paris Agreement is positive. However, details on this need to be disclosed immediately.
Again, the article in the text, "We will not build new thermal power plants, and will prepare a closure plan, with the participation of relevant stakeholders and taking into account social and economic analysis so as to not cause any grievances, for existing power plants that cannot be rehabilitated" is really critical and important.
The field in which the struggle for the environment and living spaces in recent years has been organized in the most extensive way is the struggle against the coal industry and coal-fired thermal power plants. It is gratifying indeed that this is reflected in this text.
Let's list the other important articles:
We will establish Environmental Specialized Courts, expand the scope of environmental crimes in the Turkish Penal Code and increase their penalties.
We will make the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment (SEA) processes participatory and effective.
We will abolish plastic waste imports in line with a calendar.
We will stand against ecocide projects by taking into account the balance between protection and use.
We will ban separation techniques that involve the use of poisonous and toxic chemicals such as cyanide, sulfuric acid, and silica.
We will impose heavy administrative and criminal sanctions on businesses that do not filter the gases emitted by factory chimneys, pollute the environment with their wastewater, and do not install measuring devices.
WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD: SMALL MODULAR REACTORS
The most problematic of the promises made in the Consensus Paper is in the section on nuclear power plants. The relevant section items are as follows:
We will develop the 'Turkish Nuclear Ecosystem' by establishing a Nuclear Research and Training Center based on next generation nuclear technologies, in order to train human resources that will pave the way for the development of domestic technologies in nuclear energy.
We will make the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Authority a more scientific and active institution.
We will review the current status and contract details of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant Project, in addition to the rights granted or obligations assumed outside the contract.
We will build a new generation of 'Small Modular Reactors' that can be built safer and faster.
The place where the rubber meets the road is exactly in the small modular reactors (SMR) part of that last item...
It was probably lost among the items in Turkey's hot political and economic agenda, but as early as 2022 it became known that the AKP and some companies were in talks with the US for the purchase of small modular nuclear reactors.
Justin Friedman, Senior Advisor to Nuclear Energy at the US Department of State, said in a statement to Bloomberg that 35 small modular reactors can be sold to Turkey and said, "Now the main question is whether this trade will be done at an intergovernmental or intercompany level."
Stating that Turkish companies can play an important role in small modular nuclear reactor constructions, Friedman told Anadolu Agency, "Turkish companies with significant experience in building large projects, highways, bridges, can use this expertise to build nuclear construction projects first in Turkey and then in other countries. There is a great opportunity here.”
Shortly after Friedman's statements, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Fatih Donmez, gave the "good news.” Donmez said, "In addition to conventional nuclear power plants, small and medium-sized modular reactors, known as SMRs, are now on our agenda. Hopefully, we will add SMRs to our energy portfolio as well as our nuclear power plants that are under construction and planned."
Turkey has a plan to build another nuclear power plant with Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned company, in the Sinop Province, in addition to the ongoing construction for the nuclear power plant project in Mersin Akkuyu.
We learn with the Bloomberg article that a new nuclear threat has come to our door! Turkey has apparently been negotiating with the USA to buy 35 small nuclear reactors.
TerraPower nuclear energy company owned by Bill Gates, one of the world's leading wealthy men, and PacifiCorp, owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway company, joined forces in 2020 and started the Natrium project. The small nuclear reactors at the heart of the project will become commercially available by 2030.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved the US's first small modular nuclear reactor.
The US Commission may have given its approval, but these reactors are not yet globally licensed.
With regard to the specifics of Turkey, if the negotiations for these power plants, which will cost millions of dollars, result in a commercial agreement, uncertainties surround the functioning of the system, financing, and ownership.
When the effects of the catastrophes caused by the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters continue today and when the countless negativities experienced at the Akkuyu plant construction site even before its operation are presented to us, the inclusion of this statement in the Table of Six’s extremely ambitious Consensus Paper is perplexing.
Moreover, I cannot make sense of the fact that this issue was included in the Consensus Paper when a US official recently pointed to the ongoing negotiations behind closed doors which the AKP had heralded to the public as good news.
Nuclear power is not the solution to our climate crisis.
Any form of nuclear energy is dangerous.
The recent attempt to keep nuclear power on the agenda is all about the lobbies of a collapsing industry struggling to access capital.
The Table of Six needs to initiate a quick abandonment of this article in the Consensus Paper before it risks being used by this lobby. What you promise us cannot be new Chernobyls, new Fukushimas.
The upcoming elections are very critical, we are all aware of that.
At a time when we are going through political, economic, ecological, and social crises, I invite the Table of Six to rethink nuclear energy, to take responsibility, and to radically abandon nuclear energy...
Pelin Cengiz: She has held various positions as a reporter, editor, economy manager, and writer in different newspapers. She worked mainly in the fields of macro economy, development and business in the field of economic journalism. In addition to her economic journalism, she has been writing articles regarding the climate crisis, ecology, energy, financing of energy, agriculture, and environmental struggles for more than 12 years. She is a writer for Arti Gercek, and a producer for the programs Ecological Focus and Arti Ekonomi on Arti TV. Cengiz is a graduate of Marmara University Faculty of Communication.