Musings on Turkey’s Spent Fuel Policy: Where Will Ankara Store Nuclear Waste?

Turkey has yet to articulate a spent fuel strategy for the Sinop power reactor. For the Akkuyu reactor, Russia has agreed to a take back provision, whereby all of the spent fuel will be shipped back to Russia for storage and eventual reprocessing. Japan – the contractor for the Sinop project – is unlikely to accept spent fuel, which means that Turkey is going to have to figure out what exactly it wants to do with its nuclear waste.

I think I have found the answer. In 1996, Dr. Nejat Aybars, the former President of the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority, wrote:

Plutonium in stock may be very useful in the future, allowing for fast reactor requirement or recycling in thermal reactors. In the latter stage, according to the country’s fuel policy, it would be necessary to make arrangements for reprocessing in order to permit plutonium separation or make arrangement for final disposal of used fuel elements. The current storage practice developed in Canada is very suitable for developing countries as a safe interim measure for the management of used fuel up to 100 years. It may therefore be wise to select a policy for nuclear fuel cycle before the choice for a reactor type. For Turkey’s vast thorium resources used in conjunction with a suitable reactor system, may offer the prospects of energy independence for centuries. Fuel cycle considerations was not taken into account in the earlier attempts in Turkey.

Dr. Aybars is a dreamer – thorium as reactor fuel, come on man! – but his comments raise a very interesting question about Turkey’s plan to dispose of spent fuel. He specifically notes that the country should come up with a spent fuel strategy before choosing a reactor type. His embrace of a breeder reactor – i.e., one that uses plutonium as fuel – has been around since World War II and is not all that noteworthy.

The most interesting take-away, I believe, is that in 1996, Turkey thought highly of Canada’s spent fuel strategy. Canada – after years of questions about what to do with its spent fuel – has opted for dry-cask storage and eventual storage in a geological repository. Turkey, I am assuming, will dust these plans off, as it seeks to figure out what to do with the spent fuel generated at Sinop.

However, unlike Canada, Ankara has yet to grapple with the political realities of disposing of nuclear waste. The government has yet to address this issue in public. Moreover, it is unclear who will build and finance a geological repository in Turkey. Under the terms of Sinop deal, Japan will finance the cost of construction using a local project company based in Turkey. Turkey’s state-owned EUAS will take up to a 35% stake in the company. Ankara intends to then auction off a percentage of EUAS’ shares in a public offering at some point in the future.

The question I have is who will build the spent fuel facility? And, under the BOO financing terms, who is responsible for managing the spent fuel stored in dry casks awaiting disposal at the Sinop site? I would presume it will be Japan, but I am not sure how this could affect the project financing for the reactor as a whole.

Turkey would be wise to clarify these ambiguities.

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About aaronstein1

I am an Istanbul based PhD Candidate a King's College London.
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