Pinar Demircan

Turkish activist and researcher Pinar Demircan sent this update after participating in the protest against the farcical EIA hearing for the Sinop nuclear project.  Earlier, we published her interview on our website. 

Despite Turkey’s being a country that does not have even a single nuclear power plant, it signed a second nuclear agreement with Japan in 2013 for a plant to be constructed in Sinop, a city located on the Black Sea coast. According to this agreement, the Government of Turkey is planning to set up a 4560 Megawatt Nuclear Power Plant consisting of 4 reactors of 1140 megawatts of capacity each. The project has faced opposition from the public since the first day of the agreement.

One big reason for the public anger is Japan is the country that  caused the Fukushima Nuclear disaster and had to close its own reactors after safety checks. The Sinop Nuclear Project is located on Inceburun peninsula on the Black Sea, in an area where 99% of the land is forest. This peninsula is in the northernmost part of Turkey and used to be a US military base. Since the agreement was signed, 500 thousand trees in an area of 10 square kilometers have been cut to let Mitsubishi perform its feasibility work. In fact, there is Hamsilos National Park in the neighbourhood, where there are many plant and animal species and fertile land. The Sinop nuclear power plant will use cooling water from the sea which is popular for its fisheries and provides 10% of the total fish consumed in Turkey.

The Black Sea region, including Sinop, has been heavily affected by radioactive fallout since the Chernobyl Nuclear Accident, and there is opposition and a strong antinuclear movement in Sinop as well as all over Turkey. It is always said that there is at least one family member suffering or dead from cancer in every family. About the project, there has already been a two-year delay in the start of operation, and it is still unclear how much costs will increase for the power plant’s construction. Turkey signed the Non Proliferation Treaty in 1981.

While the Nuclear Agreement was originally based on the build-own-operate principle,  it does not allow the Turkish side to have more than a 49% share. The Turkish side of this agreement is introduced as Electric Production Stock Company (EUAS), and the address of this company, which is subject to the agreement, was shown as Jersey Canal Islands, UK, an obvious tax shelter scheme. In order to start the application process of the project, the EUAS prepared an Environmental Impact Assessment on January 12, 2018 and announced that there would be a public hearing on February 6, 2018. The Sinop Anti-nuclear Platform made their application to participate in this public hearing meeting weeks ago, but their request was never answered. Their participation was also physically avoided on February 6.

On February 6, 2018, a vehicle convoy of two buses and private cars, belonging to those who wanted to participate in the public hearing meeting at 9 AM, started on their way at 7:30 AM. But they were stopped four times on the way to the target destination which was only eight kilometers away. Even tough they reached the location before the meeting started, they were not allowed to enter. Even press members were not allowed inside.

The Sinop Antinuclear Platform, three parliament members of Istanbul, Sinop and Bursa, two mayors of Sinop (Sinop has nine mayors in total) and all the other members of civil society–such as environment and city commission members, members of the Bar Association, environmental NGOs, Istanbul Antinuclear platform, and members of some advocacy organizations–finally performed a successful protest and showed resistance.

First a petition was started by lawyers supporting the antinuclear movement in order to strongly condemn such an undemocratic act of not allowing the public to participate at a public hearing of the project. While the petition was being signed, we came to know about the arrest of two farmers who had come to oppose the project, as they had participated separately by making preparations in the very early morning. Even though there were empty seats in the hallway, the opponents could not participate.

Finally, almost 200 people who were not let in returned back to buses and started to walk to the Governorship and City Court to protest this undemocratic act. When the group arrived, there was a violent scuffle in which and the police released pepper gas and punched a member of parliament who was also in the group. One more protestor was arrested soon after this incident in which the police attacked people. As a result, the group started another petition to protest the actions of the Governorship and the arrests of three people in total, beginning from the morning by demanding the Governor resign. Next, lawyers and parliament members met the Governor and conveyed their objections and demands of the people during a thirty-minute meeting.

(Women of Istanbul Antinuclear Platform, including the author, were there to oppose to nuclear project )

After the visit to Governor, the people made a statement by megaphone evaluating the situation. In their statements it was mentioned that Sinop NPP was aiming to sacrifice the city of Sinop with its public and life for a nuclear power project to provide electricity at a price which will be 40% more expensive than the market price.The cost of the project is 20 billion dollars and the reactors will be established by ATMEA company, which was established by Japanese firms Mitsubishi and the French giant Areva. Turkey signed this agreement to set up reactors of a type which have not been built successfully in any other country.

At the end of the day three people who were arrested were released and the protest was mentioned on media, not only in alternative ones but also in mainstream media.

Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant project is an other nuclear project of Turkey which has also been heavily opposed by the public. A governmental agreement was signed with Russia in 2010 to have a nuclear power plant at Mediterranean coast in Mersin. Since the government has been ignoring opposition and insisting on realizing its nuclear dream, this is the project that has progressed the most because it was started earlier. Finally, there is one more nuclear power plant project in northwest Turkey, namely Igneada, which is in a very unique location with rainforests. Igneada is only 200 kilometers from Istanbul, a city of 14 million people. This project was declared by the government, but no formal agreement has been signed yet.

Pinar Demircan is an author at the Yesil Gazete and project coordinator of Nukleersiz.org