Turkey's Nuclear Programs
Turkey ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1979 and has had a safeguards agreement in force with the IAEA since 1981 and the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement has been in force since 2001. Turkey has three nuclear facilities two of which are research reactors and one pilot fuel production plant. Turkey has been listed as a latent nuclear power. It is one of the 46 members of the Nuclear Supplier Group even though it is not a nuclear power state, but Turkey’s membership was requested due to its manufacturing capacity for materials of potential use in the nuclear industry.
Turkey has completed both the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol with the IAEA. The broader conclusion obtained from the Agency in 2012, confirming that all nuclear material in the country have remained in peaceful activities, is testimony to the highest level that Turkey’s system of accounting for and control of nuclear materials has reached.
On 02 June 2008, the US and Turkey brought into force the US-Turkey Agreement for Cooperation Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy through an exchange of diplomatic notes. The Agreement provides a comprehensive framework for peaceful nuclear cooperation between the United States and Turkey under agreed nonproliferation conditions and controls. It establishes a firm foundation for mutually beneficial cooperation in the important field of peaceful nuclear energy consistent with nonproliferation principles.
The Agreement had an initial term of 15 years, with provision for automatic renewal in increments of five years each unless either party decides to terminate it. It opens opportunities for U.S. and Turkish industries by permitting the transfer between the two countries of technology, material, reactors, and components for nuclear research and nuclear power production.
The Agreement underlined the strong commitment of both countries to the development and use of civil nuclear energy in a safe and secure manner to advance the welfare and prosperity of their citizens. The Agreement also demonstrates the commitment of two close friends and allies to promoting a strong global nuclear nonproliferation regime. By bringing the Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation into force today, the United States and Turkey have taken an important step in what they both expect will be a long and fruitful partnership to enhance nonproliferation and energy security.
Turkey is party to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and fully implements its provisions. The proposal for the ratification of its 2005 Amendment has been approved by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA). Turkey is among the initial signatories of International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT).
Having returned the HEU fuel used in the 5 MW research reactor at the Çekmece Nuclear Research and Training Center, Turkey continues to discourage the use of HEU and plutonium and encourage the development and use of low enriched uranium alternatives.
Turkey has had plans for establishing nuclear power generation since 1970. Several nuclear power projects have been proposed: in 1970 a feasibility study concerned a 300 MWe plant; in 1973 the electricity authority decided to build a 80 MWe demonstration plant but didn’t; in 1976 the Akkuyu site on the eastern Mediterranean coast near the port of Mersin was licensed for a nuclear plant; and in 1980 an attempt to build several plants failed due to a lack of government financial guarantee.
Turkey is moving forward with its plans to build its first nuclear power plant. Energy is seen as the Achilles' heel because it currently imports nearly 95 percent of its oil and gas. Turkey's first nuclear power station will be located on the Mediterranean coast, not far from its Greek islands, in Akkuyu. Akkuyu NPP JSC, Russian registered project company for the construction of Akkuyu power plant, is closely cooperating with the Turkish side on licensing matters. Regular consultations are held with the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning, the Ministry of Water Resources and Forestry, the Treasury, and with state agencies such as EUAS (power generating company), TETAS (power sale company), TEIAS (power grid operator) and TAEK (Turkish Atomic Energy Agency). In this respect, a working group has been setup between TAEK and Akkuyu NPP JSC to discuss the nuclear security issues regarding the Akkuyu NPP and the fuel to be used in Akkuyu NPP.
As part of Turkey's plans to develop its nuclear potential, in 2008 the Turkish Energy Ministry was moving toward plans to position the country as a regional center for uranium enrichment. In May 2010, Iran agreed to a deal to send low-enriched uranium abroad in return for nuclear fuel, following mediation talks with Turkish and Brazilian leaders. Under the agreement [which soon fell through], most of Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium would be sent to Turkey in return for 120 kilograms of nuclear fuel for a medical research reactor.
In 2014, Turkey and Japan announced a contract for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to build Turkey’s second nuclear plant in Sinop. Surprisingly, the agreement contained provisions to permit Ankara to enrich uranium and extract plutonium from spent nuclear fuel, both proccesses which could make weapons-grade material.
Turkey has modest uranium resources. The Temrezli deposit in the central Anatolian region 220 km east of Ankara was discovered by the Department of Energy, Raw Material and Exploration (MTA) in the early 1980s. MTA continued to explore the region for the next 10 years. Regional towns of Yozgat and Sorgun are nearby.
Turkey does not have the infrastructure to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon. The lack of commercial-scale uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technologies make it unlikely that Ankara could quickly develop a nuclear weapon. But Turkey has deliberately left open an indigenous enrichment option, as that Turkey profoundly emphasizes the right to enrichment under the NPT.
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