Turkey’s Future With Nuclear Fuel And Radioactive Waste: Transport Safety And Security

Author data: 
Dolunay Özbek
Publication Date: 
October 2016

in Sinan Ülgen (ed.), Managing the Risks of Nuclear Energy: The Turkish Case

Nuclear Past, Present and Future Project
Document Type: 
Articles and Op-Eds

Embarking on a nuclear energy journey, Turkey has to be prepared for ensuring the safe and secure transportation of nuclear and radioactive material on domestic and international air and sea routes. Transshipment safety and security covers the stages of importing nuclear fuel, transferring it to interim storage, shipping spent fuel and radioactive waste, and decommissioning the nuclear power plant. However, the terms of the additional agreement on nuclear fuel and waste have not been concluded in the May 2010 intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between Russia and Turkey on the construction and operation of a nuclear power plant in Akkuyu, Mersin.

Turkey will be outsourcing nuclear fuel and does not appear to have any plans for generating a national reprocessing capability. Hence, Turkey will likely ship spent fuel to Russia, in which case the national plans and procedures for secure interim storage and transportation of spent fuel and radioactive waste should be agreed upon by all stakeholders (i.e. Ankara, Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation, and the private security company).

This chapter first identifies the international and domestic legislative and regulatory frameworks on the safety and security of the transportation of radioactive material in a descriptive manner. It then takes a close look at transport safety by mapping out the operational and legal role of each stakeholder in ensuring the physical protection of the cargo and public safety. Recognizing the high security risks associated with the transport of nuclear and radioactive material (e.g. protests, terrorist attacks, theft, or sabotage) the chapter then provides an overview of the security measures and the roles of respective Turkish authorities in response mechanisms. It is clear that the “build-own-operate” (BOO) mechanism for the Akkuyu power plant creates less incentives for the Turkish government, especially since the intergovernmental agreement is expected to address Turkey’s concerns, whilst giving the weight of responsibilities in transport safety and security to the Russian side. Akkuyu is frequently referred to as a Russian nuclear power plant in Turkey. However, it is crucial to remember that the agreement is political and that it needs to be negotiated based on the premises of Russia’s legislature. Additionally, the BOO mechanism does not address Turkey’s need for an independent regulatory body and the indigenous capability to oversee Russia’s actions on Turkish soil. Hence, the central recommendations in this chapter are, specifying the detailed action and contingency plans for nuclear fuel and waste transport with Russian authorities through a separate agreement in a timely fashion, and identifying a clear coordination mechanism among Turkish law enforcement authorities with clear responsibility areas.