Nuclear Energy in Turkey

Nuclear Energy in Turkey


  • Release Date: October 01, 2016

I. Taner Tüysüzoğlu
Attorney At Law

As we all know, nuclear power plants in Turkey will become a part of our life in the near future. Although attempts have been made to establish nuclear power plants in different times since 1970, most of these attempts remained inconclusive. In 2004, the issue of nuclear power plants has come up once again and a decision has been taken to establish three power plants in total. The works for one of these power plants (Akkuyu) are in progress and the other two are currently in the design phase.


Simultaneously with many European countries who did not have nuclear technology, the nuclear activities in Turkey started in 1955, right after the 1st Geneva Conference on the “Use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes”. In 1961, a test reactor with a power of 1 MW used for training and basic research is commissioned in Çekmece Nuclear Reactor and Training Center. The first feasibility surveys regarding the nuclear power plant intended to be established for generating electricity were initiated in 1968. In 1972-74, feasibility surveys and land surveys were revised in accordance with the changing conditions, the Akkuyu area located west of Silifke is selected as the first area of establishment in 1976 and a location license is obtained from the Prime Ministry Atomic Energy Commission based on the large scale studies carried out. In 1976, initiatives have been made for the nuclear power plant tender and pre-contract negotiations have been initiated with ASEAATOM and STALLAVAL companies in 1977 after the evaluation of the bids, however, the negotiations could not be finalized successfully on September 12, 1979 due to various reasons.


In 1982, bids have been received from Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), Siemens-Kraftwerk Union (KWU) and General Electric (GE) companies through the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority (TAEK) without announcing a tender. Although an agreement was reached in the negotiations with these companies on August 30, 1984, when the government announced that the key condition for the tender, which was initiated on a turn-key basis, is changed into a “Build-Operate-Transfer” condition, the companies KWU as well as GE, which was offered the Sinop nuclear site instead of Akkuyu, withdrew from the tender. On the other hand, the ordinance regarding the Institution for Nuclear Electric Power Plants (NELSAK) has been drawn up and ratified on November 2, 1983 in order to carry out all nuclear-related issues under a single roof within the scope of reorganization of the state institutions, and Kenan Evren, the president of the republic at the time, stated that three different types of nuclear power plants will be established in Turkey. However, the NELSAK ordinance was never executed. In March 1985, negotiations with AECL continued and an engagement letter has been signed in August. However, as the Canada government rejected the conditions stated in the engagement and guaranteeing the 60% of the financing (the remaining 40% was to be undertaken by TAEK and Turkey), negotiations with AECL also halted in the early 1986. In April 1986, activities related to nuclear power plants were also suspended in Turkey due to the Chernobyl reactor accident that occurred in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In 1988, TAEK Department of Nuclear Power Plants was abolished.


In 1989, a 25 MW passive-system modular prototype project was intended to be initiated with Argentina; however, it was not found sufficient and was cancelled in the early 1991. In 1992, a letter was sent to the prominent companies in the world and information regarding technical and financial issues were requested in order to establish a one- or two-unit power plant with a power of 1000 MW on turnkey or Build-Operate-Transfer basis, to be commissioned in 2002. In December of the same year, in a report submitted by Ersin Faralyalı, the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources at that time, it was emphasized that if the country does not create other energy resources, it will fall into a large-scale energy crisis in 2010 and in order to prevent this, nuclear energy must necessarily be employed. Upon this, the High Council of Science and Technology, which convened in the early 1993, determined the issue of generating electricity from nuclear energy as the third priority of the country. In 1995, TEAŞ made an agreement with the South Korean KAERI company as a consultant in order to make preliminary inspections for the nuclear power plant tender. In 1996, a commission consisting of three consultants assigned by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and two personnel from TEAŞ Nuclear Power Plants Department finalized the tender specifications. On October 17, 1996, it was announced in the Official Gazette that a tender is announced for Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant. On October 15, 1997, AECL, NPI (Nuclear Power International/Siemens and Framatome Consortium) and WESTINGHOUSE (together with Mitsubishi) submitted a bid but in 2000, the government announced that it cancelled the finalization of the project and the establishment of a nuclear power plant in the country.

After 2000 and now…

In May 2004, after the then-Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Hilmi Güler stated, “We will soon discuss with the countries that are the manufacturers of these power plants.” the issue of nuclear power plants was brought up once again and rapid developments have occurred in Akkuyu and Sinop Power Plants.

Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant will be established in the Mersin province, Gülnar district, Büyükeceli Township, Akkuyu area. If its construction is completed, it will be the first nuclear power plant of Turkey. As a result of the bilateral international agreement signed, the Akkuyu site was delivered to the Russian public company Atomstroyexport (a subsidiary of Atomenergoprom, which is affiliated with ROSATOM) free of charge. The Russian public company will construct a nuclear power plant here with the financial resources it will procure and sell the electricity it produces to Turkey with a 15-year purchasing guarantee. There are no definitive dates as to when the power plant will be commissioned. It will consist of four 1200 MW units and with an installed power of 4800 MW, it will be capable of meeting approximately 6% of Turkey’s energy requirements on its own.

Sinop Nuclear Power Plant or Sinop Nuclear Plant (Sinop NS), is Turkey’s second nuclear power plant projected after Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, which is planned to be established on the seaside of İnceburun Peninsula in the province of Sinop. With its 4 1120-MW reactor units, the power plant is planned to have a total installed power of 4,480 MW.

However, taking all these developments into consideration, what do we, as a country, know about the Nuclear Law, which is an essential component of the nuclear energy that is certain to become a part of us in the near future?


The main purpose of the Nuclear Law is to create a legal framework for each country that uses or plans to use nuclear energy, allowing them to take advantage of the economic and social benefits of the nuclear power in the most suitable manner.

The guiding role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (UAEK) in providing guidance to the member countries with regard to the legislation activities in the area of nuclear law must not be forgotten.

Benefits and Risks:

As known, the nuclear energy creates risks on human health and safety as well as the environment, which must be carefully handled. However, the nuclear energy has considerable benefits in many areas ranging from health to agriculture, the generation of electricity as well as industry. For these reasons, legislative activities regarding the nuclear energy have focused on these inseparable risks and benefits of the nuclear energy.


Nuclear law is a body of special norms, which regulated all kinds of actions, procedures and interactions of legal and real persons regarding the nuclear energy and radiation.

Among the general norms of law, nuclear law is a branch of law that contains regulations appropriate for the special status of the nuclear technology, and the nuclear law regulations regulate the development and use of the nuclear technology within a benefit-risk balance.


We could say that the purpose of the nuclear law is to create a legal framework that protects individuals, property rights and the environment with regard to the use of nuclear energy and radiation.

Principles of the Nuclear Law             :

  1. a) The Safety Principle
  2. b) The Security Principle
  3. c) The Responsibility Principle
  4. d) The Permission Principle
  5. e) The Continuous Control Principle
  6. f) The Compensation Principle
  7. g) The Sustainable Development Principle
  8. h) The Compliance Principle
  9. i) The Independence Principle
  10. j) The Transparency Principle
  11. k) The International Co-Operation Principle


Now let’s take a look at what these principles define:

  1. a) The Safety Principle

Numerous international agreements, national legislative documents and expert comments say that “safety” is the first requirement in the use of nuclear power. Within this framework, a series of sub-principles have been determined. These are:

  • Prevention Principle : This principle states that the primary objective of nuclear law must be to exercise caution and foresight to prevent damage and to minimize the effects of misuse of technology and possible accidents.


  • Protection Principle : This principle regulates the issue of balancing the benefits and risks of the nuclear technology. Of course, the priority must be the protection of the public health, safety, security and the environment. As the priority is protection by avoiding risks at all times, this principle is also referred as the “precautionary principle”.


While legislative activities are being carried out in the light of this principle, importance must be given to introducing technical safety criteria with different levels of severity against risks in different levels.

  1. b) The Security Principle

While carrying out legislative activities regarding Nuclear Law, it must not be forgotten that the developmental sources of the nuclear energy are based on military technology. Seizure of the nuclear technology or nuclear materials by terrorists or other criminal organizations may clear the way for malevolent use.


For this reasons, different legal protection measures must be taken for the protection of both the technology and the nuclear materials based on the level of hazard of the technology and the materials.

  1. c) The Responsibility Principle

Multiple actors take part in the process of use of Nuclear Energy. Some examples are R&D Institutions, processors of nuclear materials, manufacturers of nuclear devices (equipment), medical practitioners using nuclear energy, architect–engineering firms, and construction companies, operators of nuclear installations, financial institutions and regulatory bodies. In a process with all of these actors involved, the question that arises is “Who is primarily responsible for ensuring safety?” Although all of the aforementioned actors have varying levels of responsibility, the primary responsibility rests with the operators of nuclear installations and licensees.

  1. d) The Permission Principle

As a rule, in most national law systems, obtaining permission in advance is not a precondition for the commercial activities of the individuals. However, if these activities pose identifiable risks, then the issue of a permission system will arise.


Due to the inherent risks of the nuclear technology, the nuclear law foresees a permission system for all kinds of procedures, in particular those related with radioactive material. In this point, the concept of “permission” may be defined with the terms of authorization, license, permit, certificate and approval.


Under the scope of this principle, it is very important to determine in advance which activities are subject to what level of permission.

  1. e) The Continuous Control Principle

Even an actor carrying out activities in the area of nuclear energy has been authorized with a license or other permission, it must be kept under continuous supervision to determine that it carries out its activities in a safe and secure manner. This principle foresees that the national nuclear legislation must allow the inspectors of regulatory institution to directly and freely access all kinds of activities in all levels where nuclear energy is used.

  1. f) The Compensation Principle

In a nuclear accident which may occur for various reasons despite taking all precautions, the national legislation of the countries must make it possible to pay adequate and sufficient compensation to all parties affected by the accident.

  1. g) The Sustainable Development Principle

The Environmental Law identifies important duties for each human generation not to impose undue environmental effects/burdens on future generations. As known, the economic and social development can only be sustained by protecting the environment. This rule must also be applied in the nuclear area. Taking into consideration the long life of the nuclear materials and their effects on the future, the current generations must use the technology by avoiding the risks and damages by keeping the long-term effects of this technology in mind.


  1. h) The Compliance Principle

Although many human activities are carried out within the limits of a country, their possible effects could have a nature that extends the borders. It is a known fact that the risks in the area of nuclear energy have a nature that extends the borders. Multilateral international agreements concluded with regard to the risks that extend these borders are the primary reference points for preventing the risks, and the actions that must be taken if they are realized. Due to the nature of the Nuclear Law, the countries carrying out activities in the area of nuclear energy are liable to comply with national and international regulations. Within this scope, in certain countries, the international contracts and regulations automatically become the law norms that must be applied in the national legislation, whereas in other countries, additional legislative activities are required to adopt these international regulations within the domestic legislation.

  1. i) The Independence Principle

The international Nuclear Law puts special emphasis on the concept of establishment of the regulatory authority. The purpose of independency is to make the decisions of the regulatory authority, in particular those related to the area of safety, independent from the decisions of the actors in the sector. Taking into consideration the risks in the sector, when it comes to safety, all other related parties must respect the independency and expert opinion of the regulatory authority and fully cooperate.


  1. j) The Transparency Principle

The development of nuclear energy started thanks to the military programs, in particular those during the Second World War era. For this reason, the nuclear raw materials and technology is accepted to be highly sensitive, and have a high level of safety. After the use of this technology for peaceful purposes has started, it become possible for the public to understand, adopt and trust into this technology through sharing of information, as transparent as possible, by the media, lawmakers and other related bodies. The principle of transparency requires the parties that contribute to the development of nuclear technology to share all kinds of information regarding the effects on public health, safety and environment as well as extraordinary situations.


  1. k) The International Co-Operation Principle

The final principle of ICP, points out the necessity of establishing close relations between the nuclear energy users and regulators via international organizations. International importance of nuclear energy is based on a couple of reasons.

First                                      : In the areas of safety and the environment, the potential transboundary effects require the governments to harmonize their policies in this regard and to develop cooperative programs, thereby providing maximum protection to humans and the environment in case of possible accidents.

Second                                : The fact that the effects do not respect the borders make it mandatory to share information worldwide by spreading the safety implementations enhanced in the country to other countries. Also, the international cooperation has vital importance due to terrorism and threats from other criminal organizations.

Third                     : An increasing number of international contracts and similar legal regulations regulate the responsibilities that must be fulfilled by the countries in the nuclear area.

Fourth                  : The increasingly multinational character of the Nuclear Industry makes it necessary to control the nuclear raw materials and equipment in the national borders more efficiently. This control can only be achieved through international cooperation.

For all these reasons, the international nuclear energy legislation must have a structure that allows the public and private sector actors to take part in the international organizations related to their fields.

Ibrahim Taner Tüysüzoğlu is attorney at STF HUKUK Law and consulting

Contact him directly here


About Author

Arnaud Lefevre

Arnaud Lefevre is the Chief Executive Officer of Dynatom International. Arnaud is in charge of the international development of the business portfolio.