Turkey: Nuclear Power And Turkey: An Overview Of Nuclear Legislation And Policy

Last Updated: 25 July 2011
Article by Kerem Gülay

1. Introduction

Turkey has been a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) since 1980 and a member state of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since 1957. The establishment of a nuclear power plant (NPP) has been on the agenda of the Government since the mid 1950s. Although Turkey acceded to various international agreements concerning the use of nuclear energy, it emphasized its right to use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Currently there are no NPPs in Turkey with the exception of one research and training reactor (ÇNAEM) operated by the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority (TAEK) and one pulse reactor operated by Istanbul Technical University. Construction of a proton accelerator facility, the Saraykoy Nuclear Research and Training Center (SANAEM), under the auspices of TAEK was completed recently.1

2. Government Nuclear Power Policy

Lately, establishment of NPPs became a top governmental priority as evidenced by the ninth Development Plan (2007-2013) dated 1 July 2006, which holds that "in order to provide a good variety in the supply of electrical power, nuclear energy will be included in the electricity generation sources".2 The plan, among other things, envisages the need to draft detailed plans for nuclear waste storage and disposal and the incentivization of research and development for nuclear technology in this respect.3

To this end, Turkey concluded an international agreement with the Russian Federation paving the way for the construction of four WER1200 units nuclear power plant at Akkuyu nuclear site, consisting of 4800 MWe total capacity.4 It is expected that the construction of the NPP will begin in mid-2013 or in 2014 at the latest.5 Additionally, Turkey reported to the IAEA its intention to build another NPP at the Sinop nuclear site and explained that negotiations are underway between Turkish and South Korean authorities and companies for the construction of NNPs with 5,000 MWe total capacity.6 The government plans to increase the share of nuclear power to five percent of total electrical power production by 2020;7 and expects to have at least 10.000 MWe installed nuclear capacity by the year 2030.8

3. International Engagements

Apart from the NPT, Turkey is a state party to the following multilateral treaties, regulating various aspects of the peaceful use of nuclear power:9


In Force


Convention on the Cooperation in the Atomic Energy Field Between the NATO Members and Its Amendment

10 September 1956

Signature: 22 June 1955

Ratification: 22 June 1955

Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy

13 May 1961

Signature: 29 July 1960

Protocol to Amend the Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy of 29 July 1960

13 June 1967

Signature: 28 January 1964

Ratification 13 June 1967

Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the IAEA (P&I)

26 June 1978

Acceptance: 26 June 1978

Protocol to Amend the Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy of 29 July 1960, as Amended by the Additional Protocol of 28 January 1964

23 May 1986

Signature: 16 November 1982

Ratification: 23 May 1986

Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)

8 February 1987

Signature: 23 August 1983

Date of Deposit: 27 February 1985

Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident (NOT)

3 February 1991

Signature: 26 September 1986

Ratification: 3 September 1990

Date of Deposit: 3 January 1991

Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency (ASSIST)

3 February 1991

Signature: 26 September 1986

Ratification: 3 September 1990

Date of Deposit: 3 January 1991

Convention on Nuclear Safety (NS)

24 October 1996

Signature: 20 September 1994

Ratification: 8 March 1995

Joint Protocol Relating to the Application of the Vienna Convention and the Paris Convention (JP)

26 June 2007

Signature: 21 September 1988

Ratification: 26 March 2007

Additionally, Turkey is also a party to two agreements with the IAEA concerning safeguards related to nuclear power.10 Furthermore, it is a party to several bilateral treaties relating to cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear power with Canada, Argentina, South Korea, Germany, France, U.S.A., Ukraine, Russia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Azerbaijan. The ratification process is ongoing for the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. It is also important, however, that Turkey is not a state party to many other treaties, such as the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, its Amendment Protocol and the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. Finally, there are also regional treaties for cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear power, to which Turkey is not a state party.

4. Nuclear Law and Its Institutional Framework in Turkey

In order to promote private sector investments in nuclear power, the Law on the Construction and Operation of Nuclear Power Plants and Energy Sale, numbered 5710 and dated 9 November 2007 ("Nuclear Law"), the first nuclear power law of Turkey, was enacted. The current regulatory framework for nuclear power consists of two laws, namely the Nuclear Law and the Law on TAEK, numbered 2690 and dated 9 July 1982; and over fifty-five implementing regulations.11 The applicable law mainly covers the licensing process for nuclear facilities and protection measures against ionizing radiation. While matters such as licensing of nuclear facilities, sale of nuclear materials and equipment, radiation protection, radioactive waste management, nuclear security and transport are under the primary responsibility of TAEK, which is administratively attached to the Prime Minister's Office, the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry are also competent authorities in various enforcement, authorization and regulation mechanisms.

The authority responsible for the enforcement of nuclear safety and security is TAEK. It is also the primary regulatory authority in terms of general regulations concerning all aspects of the peaceful use of nuclear power. TAEK is entitled to draft and issue regulations, guidelines and decrees and it undertakes regulatory activities including licensing and performing on-site inspections of nuclear facilities, nuclear materials and other radioactive materials. The Nuclear Safety Department (NGD) of TAEK is responsible for the evaluation of licensing applications of nuclear facilities. In this regard, it is important to note that the Bylaw on the Licensing of Nuclear Facilities12 regulates the application requirements and procedures of licensing activities for nuclear installations. Accordingly, the licensing of nuclear facilities is composed of three main stages; the Site License, the Construction License and the Operation License.13 Each stage is reviewed separately by the NGD, which is tasked with preparing a report to be submitted to its Vice President who is responsible to present it to the President of TAEK with his/her comments. Finally, the President of TAEK is responsible to submit these reports to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEK) meeting for adoption. An affirmative decision from AEK means the granting of a license.

The Nuclear Law aims to establish the legal basis for the operation of NPPs in accordance with the general energy plans and policies of Turkey.14 Procedures concerning the construction and the operation of NPPs and the sale of power generated from such plants are regulated by the Nuclear Law.15 It also describes the process for selecting the company which will construct and operate the NPP. The Nuclear Law specifies that the selection process will be initiated by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (MENR). According to the Nuclear Law, the criteria, particularly those relating to nuclear safety and security, which companies have to meet in order to qualify for the construction and the operation of NPPs, is to be announced by TAEK. The Law authorizes the Council of Ministers to determine the capacity of the nuclear power plant to be constructed, the location, license fee, incentives related to infrastructural matters and the principles and procedures regarding the selection of the authorized company by means of a regulation drafted by MENR.16 There is no distinction as to the origin of the company to obtain the bid; any local or foreign company who fulfills the criteria to be determined by TAEK may qualify to participate in the selection process. The company who offers the lowest purchase guarantees shall be awarded the contract with Turkish Electricity Trading and Contracting Company (TETAS) for energy sale, up to a maximum of fifteen years.17 The Nuclear Law also provides for public partnerships and incentives for the operation of a nuclear power plant. The Council of Ministers is authorized to take measures in this regard.18 The MENR regulation, namely the Regulation Relating the Principles, Procedures, and Incentives for the Contracts and the Contest in Relation to the Law on the Construction and Operation of Nuclear Power Plants and Energy Sale (Implementing Regulation of the Nuclear Law) was published in the Official Gazette of 19 April 2008. Simultaneously, TAEK also issued the criteria which should be met by the investors.19

Following these legislative preparations, a nuclear tender took place on 24 September 2008 for the construction of a NPP at the Akkuyu Site. Only one consortium bid for the tender. After an assessment of technical documents provided by the consortium, TAEK announced on 19 December 2008 that the proposed NPP meets the TAEK criteria. Subsequently, 13th Chamber of the Council of State gave a stay of execution decision regarding certain provisions of the Implementing Regulation of the Nuclear Law on 16 September 2009 and accordingly the nuclear tender was cancelled by TETAS on 20 November 2009. However, an agreement was signed on 12 May 2010 between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey on cooperation in relation to the construction and operation of a nuclear power plant at Akkuyu. This agreement was approved by Turkish Parliament in July 2010 and published in the Official Gazette on 6 October 2010, numbered 27721.

3. Some Observations on Turkey's Nuclear Power Law and Policy

It is essential to note that Turkey is in the process of updating its existing nuclear legislation by taking into consideration the latest safety standards series issued by the IAEA.20 A draft law which would reorganize the existing nuclear regulatory infrastructure and three lower-level nuclear safety regulations are also being reviewed by the relevant authorities. Turkish domestic law, as enacted by the Parliament, the MENR and TAEK, is not the only applicable legal framework for investments concerning nuclear power generation in Turkey. Numerous international agreements, both multilateral and bilateral, are also applicable in this context. Moreover, "customary international law" as developed by states within the framework of the IAEA system is also applicable where an issue is not covered by Turkish domestic legislation and international treaty engagements. In this regard, the explicit reference of the Nuclear Law to the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy, its protocols and "other international law" should be highlighted.21 This would be of particular importance in determining responsibility for nuclear accidents and for the protection of international investments.


1.TAEK, 2010 Annual Report, p. 3.

2. Ninth Development Plan (2007-2013), published in the Official Gazette dated 1 July 2006, para. 412.

3. Ninth Development Plan (2007-2013), published in the Official Gazette dated 1 July 2006, para. 482.

4. Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the Government of the Russian Federation on Cooperation in Relation to the Construction and Operation of a Nuclear Power Plant at the Akkuyu Site in the Republic of Turkey, 12 May 2010, entered into force by its publication in Official Gazette dated 21 July 2010 and numbered 27648.

5. Press statement of Mr. Alexander Superfin, chairman of Akkuyu Co., dated 22 April 2011, to Reuters, see http://in.mobile.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-56523120110422?irpc=984; Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources of Turkey, Strategic Plan for 2010-2014, p.25.

6. Statement of 22 September, by Mr. Tomur Bayer, Ambassador, Head of the Turkish Delegation to IAEA 54th General Conference (20-24 September 2010), p. 1.

7. Electrical Power Market and Supply Safety Strategy Document dated 18 May 2009, p. 9.

8. Statement of 22 September, by Mr. Tomur Bayer, Ambassador, Head of the Turkish Delegation to IAEA 54th General Conference (20-24 September 2010), p. 1.

9. Turkey is also a state party to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) but since this one particularly prohibits testing of nuclear weapons and does not concern the generation of nuclear energy, operation of NPPs, nuclear safety standards etc. it is not listed and examined in this article.

10. Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Turkey and IAEA for Application of Safeguards in Connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Prot. Reg. No 1454), in force since 1 September 1981; and Protocol Additional to the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Turkey and IAEA for the Application of Safeguards in Connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Prot. Reg. No 1730) in force since 17 July 2001; Revised Supplementary Agreement Concerning the Provision of Technical Assistance by the IAEA (RSA), in force since 11 November 1980.

11. At the time of writing, TAEK reports that the regulatory framework for nuclear power consists of two bylaws; 21 directives; and 35 regulations.

12. Bylaw On the Licensing of Nuclear Facilities published in the Official Gazette dated 19 December 1983 and numbered 18256.

13. Art. 8 et seq. of Bylaw on the Licensing of Nuclear Facilities.

14. Art. 1 of the Nuclear Law.

15. Arts. 3, 4 and 5 of the Nuclear Law.

16. Art. 3(3) of the Nuclear Law.

17. Art. 3(5) of the Nuclear Law.

18. Arts. 6 and 7of the Nuclear Law.

19. Turkish Atomic Energy Authority Criteria which have to be Fulfilled by the Companies with the Intention of Establishing and Operating Nuclear Power Plants, 19.12.2007.

20. Statement of 22 September, by Mr. Tomur Bayer, Ambassador, Head of the Turkish Delegation to IAEA 54th General Conference (20-24 September 2010), p. 2.

21. Art. 5(5) of the Nuclear Law.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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