Turkey should build “as much nuclear power as possible” to help meet its growing energy needs, International Energy Agency Chief Economist Fatih Birol said in Brussels on Sunday night.
Speaking at the German Marshall Fund's Brussels Forum, the economist qualified his endorsement by saying that nuclear power should only be embraced “with attention given to seismic risks” that could unleash a Fukushima-style accident on Turkish soil.
Birol was unwavering in his endorsement however, saying that Turkey could employ the technology safely and use it to overcome its dependence on foreign fossil fuels. The argument that Germany and Japan are jettisoning the technology also didn't sway the economist, who was quoted as saying: “When we compare Turkey and Germany there are huge differences. In Germany, electricity demand won't even grow 1 percent this year. … But as for Turkey, demand is increasing very rapidly. From this perspective, Turkey must open nuclear power plants.”
His recommendation comes after Ankara's announcement this week that it will begin accepting bids for a newly proposed nuclear plant in the Black Sea province of Sinop. Birol's comments also come amid sustained criticism of Ankara's nuclear plans and a $25 billion nuclear facility planned for the southern province of Mersin, where activists say it faces an unacceptable risk of an earthquake.
Turkey will not be saved from its energy woes in the near future by tapping potential deposits of shale gas, Birol said, stating that the likely reserves would “take time” to exploit. Government estimates suggest the country could have as many as 1.8 trillion cubic meters of shale gas, though energy analysts are unsure how much is economically exploitable.
While Birol said that Turkey would never become a world leader in energy exports, he said the country did have the potential to become “the world champion of energy transit,” saying that its crossroads position will likely see pipelines from the Caucuses, Iraq and Israel built in the coming years. Oil in Iraq will also provide Turkey with an “unbelievable opportunity” for easily accessed fossil fuels, the economist said, adding the Israel will be another key partner as its natural gas deposits are tapped in the near future.