Turkey: Lets Go Nuclear!

Nuclear power has always been a controversial issue. In the last 2 years since the INES 7 event (International Nuclear Event Scale) occured at the Fukushima 1 Nuclear Power Plant on 11 March 2011, the world's nuclear power-producing countries were in hot debate on whether to suspend their nuclear projects, while public opinion shifted steadily and swiftly in favor of renewable energy. Since that time, countries that have their houses' lit by nuclear electricity have decided to phase out nuclear power, and are trying to fill the resulting void with power from alternative sources. However, this trend has not necessarily hindered the sharing of nuclear know-how and technology by established users of nuclear power, and Turkey has been more than willing to absorb this knowledge. Located in extremely close proximity to the tumultuous developments in the Middle East, Turkey's hunger for power is immense; with a fast-growing population, power is more critical to it than ever. Currently, according to the Republic of Turkey's Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EMRA), the top 3 sources of energy generation are Lignite 15%, Natural Gas 36%, and Hydroelectricity 36%, give or take a percentage point. Hydroelectric plants have a set life-span, Lignite is a major pollutant, and Turkey's Natural Gas is imported. This leaves nuclear power as a cleaner and cheaper alternative, if the long-term clean-up costs are properly accounted for, and the inherent danger of nuclear power is properly contained. However, there is a flip side to the coin: According to the projections made by EMRA, by 2021, nuclear power will consist of only 4% of Turkey's total energy production, which is lower even than the total renewable energy (geothermal, solar and wind) percentages. Looking forward, our legislators have begun to revamp the energy laws to better accommodate alternative sources, like the new solar energy initiative.

Energy aside, the Turkish legal system is as vibrant as ever, with new laws and by-laws being enacted by the General Assembly every month or so, which means that what you knew a couple of months ago to be true may now be changed, reshaped, and in full force and effect, in an altogether different form. This fluidity has tempted the best-known law firms from around the globe to enter the Turkish legal market through affiliations and partnerships with local firms, increasing the level of competition among full-service law firms and the quality of service along with it. We, as always, welcome competition provided it is on a level playing field in terms of the regulatory framework.

There is also the new cash repatriation regulation - investors who were somewhat afraid to redirect their funds from offshore banks and into a country with an increasing credit rate and a newly redesigned stock exchange can now bring their funds onshore, no questions asked, if they are willing to part with 2 to 5% of their inflowing capital. This will undoubtedly heat up the capital markets, putting more stress on brokers who are already overstressed; perhaps we will see some new legislation regarding tertiary markets, giving finance lawyers an opportunity to stretch their wings, learn some new market mechanics and maneuvers, and revitalize their zest for their work along the way.

Speaking of revitalization, we may soon see the depressed and "sorry, going bankrupt soon" construction industry getting a much-needed kick with these funds; if not, that will undoubtedly mean more work for litigators and real estate lawyers, who could easily be overwhelmed with a spate of bankruptcies and re-zoning transactions.

Besides nuclear concerns, with a new bridge and a third airport coming to Istanbul, not to mention "the" Istanbul (Bosphorus) canal project, coupled with the increasing concern of the local populace in every city with respect to who owns which water source and to what extent, this may well be a year when environmental lawyers will have their plates quite full.

Although we have observed a slow 2012 in terms of Privatizations, Turkey still has some aces up her sleeve, one of which is the currently trending PPP'ing the healthcare sector. The lawyers who have so deftly managed privatization affairs are now into the healthcare sector, improving and learning yet a new, complementary skill set.

Pens in our hands, we eagerly await the rest of this exciting year.

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