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Will Turkey quake derail Korean nuke reactor project?

Posted October. 25, 2011 03:13,   


“The Turkish government has not yet made any decision on power plant construction in relation to the earthquake on Sunday. One thing for sure is that the nuclear plant deal with Turkey has become very tough.” (source from the Korean nuclear plant industry)

Fears are rising that Korea`s nuclear power plant project could get canceled in the wake of the powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake in Turkey because Ankara is now more likely to drop the plan.

○ Shaky ground, shaky nuclear project

The Korean nuclear plant industry and authorities said Monday that Sunday`s earthquake was Turkey`s most powerful since 1999, when a magnitude-7.6 quake killed around 20,000 people. While the 1999 quake hit the northwestern region, the latest struck the southeastern region.

The epicenter of the quake has shifted significantly to an unpredictable place. Turkey, a country located on fault lines, is one of the world`s most earthquake-prone countries.

The Financial Times said one of the world`s riskiest nuclear plants is the Akkuyu reactor, a joint project between Turkey and Russia.

Suffering from a chronic power shortage, Ankara announced another ambitious plan to build a new nuclear plant that will meet 20 percent of energy demand via nuclear power by 2030. The plan is to build a reactor for 21.6 trillion won (19 billion U.S. dollars) in northern Turkey called Sinop.

The Korean government had exerted strenuous efforts to win the Sinop deal from March last year. It finished joint research with Turkey on the issues necessary for the construction of a nuclear plant including business structure, financing, process, property, the sale price of electricity, and human resources training.

The dynamics of the deal changed suddenly, however, after Japan joined the bid in December. Turkey suspended negotiations with Korea and started talks with Japan, which at the time believed it should win the deal given Japan`s know-how in handling earthquakes.

Things changed again in March this year in the wake of the earthquake in Japan followed by the nuclear accident in Fukushima. Tokyo stopped all its overseas nuclear projects afterward, with growing voices against the deal in Turkey saying Japan’s reactors are unsafe as well.

○ Is reactor project doomed again?

Ankara had continued its nuclear reactor plan with Korea until recently. After Tokyo Electric Power dropped the nuclear project in Turkey on July 28, Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan held a meeting with Korean Knowledge Economy Minister Choi Joong-Kyung on Aug. 10.

When Çağlayan told a Turkish media outlet in an interview, “We are open to many countries including Korea for the nuclear deal,” Korea had another crack at the nuclear project.

The Korean nuclear plant industry, however, expects the project to be scrapped in the wake of Sunday`s powerful earthquake. The Knowledge Economy Ministry and Korea Electric Power Corp., which consider Turkey as a key country for nuclear plant exports, will probably change their strategy.

A ministry source said, “We`ll wait and see how Turkey negotiates with Japan through the end of the year.”