Necdet Pamir, commenting on Turkey’s energy relations with Russia, says Akkuyu NPP will not only increase Turkey’s energy dependency, but it will also strengthen Russia’s presence in Eastern Mediterranean.

Below is a transcript of Mr. Pamir’s interview with Voice of America where he was asked about Akkuyu NPP and other energy-related issues.

What role does energy play in Turkey-Russia relations?

Turkey imports 75% of its energy demand. This is both an economic and security risk for us as this causes a high rate of dependency on energy, and Russia is at the top of the list of countries to whom Turkey is dependent for its energy supply. Turkey imports 53% of its natural gas demand from Russia. And natural gas is where 28% of Turkey’s energy use is derived from. This rate is way to high. For comparison purposes, the European Commission is advising the EU to lower its current natural gas dependency to Russia which is around 38% to below 30%. Turkey’s dependency to Russia is s staggering 53%. TurkStream pipeline will only increase this rate. At the same time, oil accounts for 33% of its total energy use, and 20% of that is procured form Russia. And that’s not all. Russian Federation also provides 33% of Turkey’s coal which is used in iron and steel manufacturing. All these add up to a dependency ratio to Russia that is not acceptable.

Are the Russians in total control of Akkuyu NPP?

Akkuyu is another addition to all that I have outlined above. It is a four-reactor power plant. The agreement with Russia has unfortunately cleared through the Parliament. I am saying it is unfortunate because according to the agreement 100% of the project is given to Russian Rosatom. It’s at Rosatom’s discretion to whether or not sell a 49% stake to a Turkish or foreign partner. The construction is under 100% Russian control, and they are the ones who will supply the enriched uranium. The administration is also totally given to Russians. Turkey doesn’t have the know-how to operate this type of technology, anyhow. The operational performance of the reactors, and therefore the plant, is a big unknown. And perhaps, most important of all, is the issue with the nuclear waste. We have also left it to Russians to figure out and handle the nuclear waste that the plant will spawn. Since the agreement has passed through the parliament, it is considered to be an international agreement and will be binding as such. I hope that the construction does not go ahead due to some financial or other obstacle.

We are talking about a nuclear power plant on the Mediterranean coast, only 140 kilometers from Mersin. The government says Turkey has to have nuclear energy. Our parliament has deemed Akkuyu as a strategic investment, so why are there still objections for its construction?

First of all, when you look at the Mediterranean from coast to coast, you will not see a single nuclear reactor. And I mean the whole international Mediterranean coast. So, it is strategic, yes. But for whom? For Russia, of course. When we look at the map, we see Russia just to the north of the Black Sea. And we know that the government is also looking to build a nuclear plant in Sinop. We should ask ourselves, why does Russia, when it could have easily built the nuclear plant in Sinop on the Black Sea coast, agree to build the plant so far away, and somewhere where the water temperature is dangerously high for such an endeavor? Don’t forget that you have to pass through the Turkish straits to get to Akkuyu. Turkey is against oil transporting through the Bosporus. It is always a big safety risk for Istanbul. Imagine enriched uranium passing on ships through and back Turkish straits where there is strong counter-currents. Uranium will travel through Greek Islands and through Turkish Aegean and Mediterranean coastal areas. This is a huge risk -and therefore a strategic project for Russia for this reason alone.

Turkey will not receive any technology as a result of it, so how is this a strategic investment? But it is a strategic move for Russia, simply because it will have finally landed them on the warm waters of the Mediterranean. They have already successfully managed to land in the south by way of Syria -first in Tartus, then Lattakia. They are increasing their presence and operations here and they are not letting NATO and the US take control of Eastern Mediterranean. That’s why Akkuyu is a strategic step for them.

Even Turkish MPs are not allowed to go in Akkuyu NPP construction site. It is almost as if it is Russian territory. There is no way for Turkey to supervise or control anything that goes on in there.

Furthermore, the agreement does not pave the way for technology transfer to Turkey. So, it is not that much different from, say, importing electricity -only this is infinitely riskier. Akkuyu carries another risk geographically. There will be thermal treatment done in Akkuyu. You will produce nuclear energy there which will give out huge amounts of heat. And you will have to use seawater to cool it down. Mediterranean seawater is very warm, and that will spike up operation costs. Sinop would be a much better choice geographically -not to say I’s support a nuclear reactor there either. But Sinop and Black Sea water is much more suitable for more efficient cooling systems for NPPs.

Akkuyu is also on the path of many fault lines and seismic activity which is another danger. Not to mention the lethal effects it will have on marine life in the area.

The only nuclear power plant in all of Mediterranean was the one in Portugal, and that has been demolished already. But we are still insisting on building one in Akkuyu -a Mediterranean paradise.

Then we might ask ourselves why Turkey agreed to go ahead with the project. There must be a commercial relationship here. The details of the agreement are not transparent, so we don’t know much about the commercial side of things, but someone has to be benefiting from this. Consortiums in Turkey and certain companies in Russia probably. So, we are talking about a project that does not benefit the people, and one that by all indications of future projections, we do not need. The Ministry of Energy had released certain projections in 2015-2016 regarding Turkey’s energy needs. We, the academicians, as well as energy professionals and the CHP all objected to the numbers the ministry had put forth. We all said these numbers are way too high, Turkey’s energy demand is nowhere as high as this. Indeed, Turkish Electricity Transmission Company which is an affiliate of the Ministry of Energy revised these numbers down significantly in December 2016. Predictions for 2026 were revised down as much as 102 billion kilowatts. Turkey’s total energy consumption last year was 280 billion kW. When Akkuyu and Sinop NPP are operational they will produce 69 billion kW annually. But the plans for these plants were put into action before the big demand revisions. Currently there is no indication that Turkey will need the additional energy that will be produced by the two NPPs. But we will still need to pay the Russian companies $25B-$30B as per the agreement. Turkey has given the Russians a guaranteed buying price of $0.1235 per kW. When I say Turkey, I mean us, the citizens will be the ones that end up paying. Current going rate for electricity is around $0.04 per kW, but we ‘ll pay Russia 0.1235. Why? And all these while our own indigenous energy resources are lying idle. The whole thing makes no sense other than a commercial one. It has nothing to do with Turkey’s strategic plans since no transfer of technology will take place.

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How much has Turkey’s energy dependency on Russia has grown during AKP’s years in power, and how do you think the future will play out?

We have two leaders that are both trapped. Putin is trying to make up what he had lost in Libya in terms of prestige, in the Middle East now. But he is also being squeezed by the recent spy poisoning scandal both by the US and the EU. At least 20 western countries are talking commercial and diplomatic sanctions. Also, the situation in Crimea is not helping. The EU is trying to break Gazprom’s monopoly in energy by creating a “third energy package”. They are aiming to create competition for Gazprom as a producer, transporter and distributor. Gazprom and Russia are naturally trying to hold their ground. They have transformed their SouthStream project, which they couldn’t sell to Europe, to TurkStream. This project is punishing Ukraine. In its earlier form, the project would involve Ukraine, Moldavia, Romania and Bulgaria over to Turkey. Now TurkStream will replace all that.

Turkey will end up being more dependent on Russia for its energy needs, however. With TurkStream, the current pipeline that can deliver 14 billion cubic meters will be abolished, and in its place, a new pipeline with a higher capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters will be placed. So, Turkey will be purchasing more natural gas from Russia than before. They will also be providing 15.75 billion cubic meters more gas to Europe.

But the most pressing issue in our energy relations with Russia is the Akkuyu NPP. If the project goes through, our first nuclear power plant will be Russian built, and we will become fully dependent on Russia to be able to operate.

The International Atomic Energy Agency which works towards the betterment of nuclear energy, has released 39 separate warnings for Akkuyu. 24 of them are classified as “recommendations” and the rest are “suggestions.” IAEA, in short, is saying that we must act on 39 issues regarding the project. Yes, there are domestic lawsuits against Akkuyu that are in progress, but we all know the state of our judiciary system. Recently, the Court has asked to see and examine IEAE’s report, but they weren’t granted access to them -the reason being the documents having been classified as ‘state secrets’. A foreign entity who has prepared the report knows all about them, but our judicial courts and our citizens are banned from examining them.

Akkuyu carried another peril with regards to its location. Mersin is a troubled region where PKK and ISIS have operations, and we are building a nuclear power plant where there is a very real danger of terrorist activity.

Turkey needs new technologies, but she certainly doesn’t need this project which will not conduit any type of technology transfer. Turkey has been consuming natural gas since 1986, but it doesn’t have any natural gas plants of its own.

Originally published in Turkish in