ON TURKEY’S NUCLEAR CLAIMS
In April a visit of the Turkish prime-minister Recep Tayip Erdogan to Beijing where a Chinese-Turkish agreement on “Peaceful use of the Nuclear Energy” will be concluded is expected. The agreement – it demanded long preparation and with this purpose in February Chinese vice-president Xi Jinping1 visited Istanbul and met Erdogan – supposes building of $20 billion cost nuclear power plant in the north-west of Turkey nearby city of Igneada not far from the Bulgaria border.
It is known that Ankara has already had an agreement with Moscow on building nuclear power plant in Akkuyu which is situated near a place of Buyukeceli at the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. If only several years ago in the international expert reports regarding Turkey it was mentioned about the possibility of developing by Ankara a nuclear programme of its own and the Turkish experts and officials spoke about it only as a possibility, today the fact is that the western neighbor of Armenia carries out a large-scale programme for creating nuclear facilities in the country.
But, taking into consideration the fact that Turkey carries out imperial foreign policy and in this aspect it has far-reaching aims, it is possible that implementing of large-scale nuclear programme in a high gear is not conditioned exclusively by energy security reasons.
From nuclear history of Turkey
Officially they have become interested in nuclear sphere in Turkey since 1956 when, by the cabinet decision, the Turkish Commission on Nuclear Energy was established. Despite the decades long activity of the aforementioned organization, according to both western and Russian sources Turkey has never extended beyond the researches and elaborations, which were mainly centralized in two institutions – Energy Institute established in 1961 under the Istanbul Technical University and Cekmece Nuclear Research and Training Centre (established in 1962).
The projects of building Turkish nuclear power plant have started to come forward since 1970s. The first such project was drafted by the Turkish Commission on Nuclear Energy in 1970 – it supposed to build nuclear power plant with capacity of 300MW. Three years later they decided to build a nuclear power plant with capacity of 80MW which had to be built in the aforementioned Akkuyu, but this project was not realized due to the financial problems the Turkish government faced. They did not stop drafting nuclear power plant building projects in 1980s either, but none of them had ever been implemented due to the financial reasons.
In 1992 the Turkish government stated that they invited international investors for building nuclear power plant in Akkuyu. Such big companies as Siemens, Westinghouse, Framatome and Mitsubishi bided. But holding that tender and summarizing its results lasted till 2000 and finally the Turkish government stated that they were closing the project on the economic assumptions2.
As it is known in 1990s Turkey was characterized with political and economic instability. Situation has changed over the next decade when the elite of the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP) had started to carry out ambitious foreign policy (which was unprecedented for Turkey). So it is not a mere chance that nuclear sphere attracted attention of the JDP at once.
On Turkey’s current nuclear projects
In 2010 about 230 billion KW/h electricity was produced in Turkey. About half of it was produced from natural gas3, 28% from black coal, 20% by hydroelectric power plants. If in 1990 annual consumption of electricity per capita was 800KW/h, 20 years later this number is 2000Kw/h per capita annually. According to Turkey’s statistic service, till 2020 the demand for electricity will be growing approximately on 7%.
The figures brought above prove that there is a problem of energy security provision in Turkey and in Ankara this circumstance is mentioned as a serious reason which obliged initiating establishment of nuclear facilities in the country. According to plans of the Turkish government it is planned to shrink the share of electricity produced from gas from the current 50% to 30%, which should be mainly done at the expense of nuclear power plants which will considerably promote strengthening of the energy independence of the country.
In May 2010 the presidents of Turkey and Russian signed an agreement according to which Rosatom Company through its subsidiary enterprises would build a nuclear plant with four reactors and total capacity of 4800MW in Akkuyu. The deal will cost $20 billion; it is planned to start building of the nuclear power plant next year, the fist power generating unit will be put into commission in 2018 and after that every year one new power generating unit will be put into commission. Thus, in 2021 Akkuyu nuclear power plant which will have four power generating units will be included in the Turkey’s electric distribution system. In accordance with the agreement 100% of the shares of the nuclear power plant will belong to Rosatom and RAO UES companies (as those companies mainly fund the project), but in 15 years of complete exploitation of the nuclear power plant the share of the Russian companies should not exceed 51%.
Since 2008 preparatory works for building second nuclear power plant with the capacity of 560MW and a center for nuclear technologies near the city of Sinop at the Black Sea shore has been initiated. The total cost of the project is about $23 billion. In March 2010 preliminary agreement was reached between Turkish Elektrik Uretim AS (EUAS) and South Korean Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco).
But implementation of agreement was suspended because the Korean party demanded that the Turkish government guaranteed that just like in case with Akkuyu nuclear power plant it will buy every year definite amount of electricity from Sinop nuclear power plant either. Ankara refused and shortly after that Japanese Toshiba and Tepco companies started negotiations with the Turkish party. The negotiations with them were also suspended after a disaster at Fukusima nuclear plant in March 2011.
Let us also mention that French Areva, GdF Suez and EdF companies also held negotiations on building Sinop nuclear power plant, but they did not succeed either. Finally, in November 2011 the prime-minister of Turkey Erdogan turned to the president of South Korea Li Myung-bak with a proposal to re-embark on the negotiations with Kepco. In February 2012 in Istanbul the president of South Korean held negotiations on this issue with the Turkish prime-minister Erdogan and according to media the parties managed to come to preliminary agreement.
And finally, as we have already mentioned, Turkey plans to build the third nuclear power plant at the Black Sea shore, in 5km from the Bulgarian border, near the city of Igneada. And though the agreements on Igneada nuclear power plant with the Chinese party seem to be fundamental but they are not final yet. Even the capacity of the nuclear plant is not known yet.
Turkey and prospects of nuclear state
In December 2011 Turkish Vatan periodical, making reference to Atomic Scientists Bulletin, wrote that F-16A/B planes of the 142nd air squadron of the Turkish air force henceforth would carry 20 American B61-12 nuclear tactical bombs, which were deployed at “Incirlik” air base. According to the publication the US reduced the number of tactical nuclear bombs from 90 to 70 and 20 of them, as it was mentioned, in case of necessity, would be carried by the planes of the Turkish air force. According to the same source in 2017 B61-12 bombs deployed at the base would be substituted by more modern B61-3/4 bombs.
In order to deliver the other 50 bombs to the targets the US should send appropriate planes from its bases outside Turkey to Incirlik. It is known that Turkey refuses to allow Washington to deploy on its territory planes which are capable to carry nuclear bombs. Till now the following substantiation of this has been known: in this case the air base in practical aspect acquires new possibilities – it acquires a status and significance of NATO air base, and in case of possible military collision it becomes a target for the enemy. In this case control over the base partially passes to the NATO command.
The most remarkable in the publication is that Turkey is permitted, in case of necessity, to participate in delivering nuclear strike. Of course a final decision on delivering nuclear strikes is taken by Washington, but it is remarkable that the Turkish political and military command decided to create for Ankara this possibility, which, e.g., was not available in the years of Cold war, as Turkish party was afraid that it would become a target for nuclear strike.
It is possible that creation of possibility for the Turkish air force to carry nuclear bombs is a response of the American party to the decision of Ankara to allow deployment of one of the elements of missile defence system – radar – in the proximity of city of Malatya.
But, in our opinion, not the aforementioned (alleged) American-Turkish agreement but the decision taken by the Turkish authorities of creating nuclear possibilities for the foreign policy of Ankara is crucial.
Under the expansionist policy carried out by Turkey currently and continuing economic rise of this country the issue of acquiring new leverages in the region and world has become crucial for Ankara. In this aspect a decision of the Turkish leadership to expand the nuclear capacities of its own was quite expected.
All the aforementioned does not mean that Ankara has taken a political decision to create nuclear bomb, as such a step can bring to serious problems for Turkey on the international arena.
But on the other hand, taking into consideration
- continuing expansion of the nuclear capabilities by Israel, Iran and Saudi Arabia in the region,
- Turkey’s goal to take more influential position in the regional and international affairs,
- an idea that NATO cannot be 100% guarantee for Turkey’s security, which is taking root in Ankara,
all the aforementioned should mean that Ankara took a political decision to create all the military and technical, political and economic capabilities which would allow Turkey to become nuclear state when necessary.
1Xi Jinping will substitute Hu Jintao as a president of China
2It is remarkable that in the period from June 1998 to April 2000 the Turkish government suspended evaluation of tender for 8 times and finally it was stated that the programme was closed.
3About 2/3 of the natural gas used in Turkey is supplied from Russia and the other 1/3 from Iran.
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