11 Nisan 2011 Pazartesi

Turkey, Japan suspend nuclear plant talks amid safety concerns

Today's Zaman

Energy Minister Taner Yıldız on Sunday said negotiations between Turkey and Japan for the construction of a nuclear power plant have been suspended.
Speaking to reporters in Kayseri, Yıldız said talks were “affected negatively following a magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan’s northeast coast” -- also hitting its Fukushima Daiichi complex. Following the tsunami, the Japanese government warned of a possible meltdown at the nuclear facility. Efforts are still under way to cool down reactors in a bid to avert further hydrogen explosions. Regarding the nuclear issue, Yıldız said Japanese officials have requested some time from their Turkish counterparts in nuclear talks as Japan is currently dealing with the consequences of its damaged nuclear plant. Japan has submitted a bid to construct a nuclear power plant in Turkey. Talks with South Korea over the construction of a nuclear plant in Sinop have recently collapsed since the sides failed to agree due to differences such as establishing “fair” electricity prices.

“We have told our Japanese counterparts that we can definitely give them the time they requested as a matter of international courtesy,” the minister said.

Japan’s nuclear reactor explosions have prompted all countries to either shut down plants or review plans for new plants while it led to calls in Turkey to revise nuclear plans, under which two or three nuclear power plants will be operational in the coming decades. Turkey is crisscrossed by geological fault lines, and small earthquakes are a near daily occurrence. In 1999, a magnitude 7.4 quake killed more than 20,000 people.
But Turkey’s government has announced that it will stick to its plans to build nuclear power plants. The government remains intent on constructing a nuclear power plant in Mersin’s Akkuyu district and another one in the Black Sea province of Sinop. Turkey has reached a deal with Russia for the construction of a plant in Akkuyu; recent statements note the government will ask Russia to increase safety precautions at this plant.

Meanwhile, commenting on recent reports that claimed oil was discovered off Turkey’s Black Sea coast, Yıldız noted that oil exploration continues in five to six locations in the region. “It is too early to say that we have found oil. I wish I could announce such news. … However, unless we see oil bursting out, I cannot confirm such information.” The minister said the government was committed to continue searching for oil in the Black Sea bed “until a favorable outcome [is reached].”

A Norwegian oil exploration platform, Leiv Eiriksson, is currently engaged in drilling in the Black Sea, estimated to hold some 10 billion barrels of oil, for the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) and its Brazilian partner Petrobras. A second drillship belonging to the American energy giant ExxonMobil is expected to start oil exploration in the Black Sea before the end of April once the required feasibility tests are completed.


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