Fuel delivered for enabling operations at first nuclear power plant in Turkey

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The first batch of nuclear fuel for the first nuclear power plant (NPP) in Turkey was delivered last month. A formal ceremony was held at the Akkuyu NPP to mark the occasion which was attended via videoconference by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Recep Erdoğan. 

A statement by the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom, which is assisting in the construction of the Akkuyu NPP, said that the ceremony at the construction site was attended by, among others, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General (DG) Rafael Grossi, Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez, Rosatom DG Alexey Likhachev, and Akkuyu Nuclear CEO Anastasia Zoteeva. 

“This historic event marks the entry of the Republic of Turkey into the community of countries developing nuclear generation technologies on their territory,” the statement said.  

It said that Rosatom DG Likhachev presented the Turkish Energy Minister with a certificate confirming the fuel delivery in compliance with all safety standards and requirements.  

Representatives of three generations of residents of the Gülnar district – a representative of the older generation, his schoolchild grandson and a young nuclear engineer – raised the peace atom flag over the Akkuyu NPP site as a sign of Turkey’s joining the community of countries developing nuclear energy technologies for peaceful purposes on their territory, the statement added.  

In his speech at the ceremony, Likhachev said that “with the delivery of fresh nuclear fuel to the Akkuyu NPP site, the latter becomes a nuclear facility, and Turkey receives the status of a country with peaceful nuclear technologies. The construction of the first NPP in Turkey is a truly joint project. More than 400 Turkish companies participate in it.” 

In his address at the ceremony, IAEA Director General Grossi said: “Nuclear energy gives good, but also responsibilities. That is why IAEA has been associated from the beginning with the project by providing assistance to follow safety standards required. We are doing this today with the spirit of hope, the spirit of success. In another 100 years’ time Akkuyu NPP will still be producing clean energy. You can always count on IAEA in every step in this way from now.” 

Fuel assemblies for unit 1 of the Akkuyu NPP have been stored at the fresh fuel storage facility. After the unit is ready for loading, experts will put fuel in the reactor and perform the first criticality operation to check the parameters of the reactor core. The reactor core of a Generation III+ power unit consists of 163 fuel assemblies with uranium fuel. 

The building and installation work of all four Akkuyu NPP power units are being carried out simultaneously, making it the world’s largest nuclear construction site. All the units are to be equipped with the state-of-the-art Generation III plus VVER-1200 reactors of 1,200 MW capacity each fitted with both active and passive safety systems.  

Rosatom fuel arm TVEL’s Central Institute of Design and Technology will supply to each of the four units of the Akkuyu NPP Russian-made refueling machines, which are used for nuclear fuel loading and replacement of spent fuel. 

According to Rosatom, the installation of the roof at unit 1 was completed in a record time of three months.  

A devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake and aftershocks hit parts of Turkey and neighbouring Syria on February 6, 2023, which has tragically caused the death of over 50,000 people. However, no damage was reported to the NPP coming up at Akkuyu, which is located some 430 km to the west of the quake’s epicentre . 

Akkuyu did not experience powerful ground shaking, while tremors with a magnitude of 3.0 were recorded at the NPP site, according to Rosatom. 

“Earthquake that occurred on February 6 on the border between Turkey and Syria did not damage the Akkuyu NPP. Tremors with a force of about 3 points on a 12-point scale were detected at the site. Akkuyu experts carried out diagnostics, which did not reveal any damage to building structures, cranes, equipment,” Rosatom had said in a statement. 

The simultaneous construction of all four units of the plant continued uninterrupted, according to officials at the Akkuyu NPP which is being designed to endure powerful tremors.  “The Akkuyu NPP project is designed to withstand an earthquake with a magnitude of up to 9 points. The station is also protected from sea level rise of up to 8.63 m (metres),” the statement said. 

“According to calculations, the maximum height of a potential tsunami in the region of the nuclear power plant construction site can be up to 6.55 m, with the probability of such a tsunami occurring once every 10,000 years,” it added. 

The IAEA also confirmed that there was “no impact” at Akkuyu from the earthquakes in Turkey, and the NPP under construction was “unaffected”. 

“As of now, no impact from earthquakes on nuclear safety & security in Türkiye, its Nuclear Regulatory Authority told IAEA; no issues so far related to radiological safety & security of radioactive sources, & the country’s under construction nuclear power plant is unaffected,” the IAEA said in a tweet following the tremors. 

Turkey plans to bring unit 1 online in 2023. With the commissioning of three more similar units, the Akkuyu NPP will have a total capacity of 4,800 MW, which is expected to meet around 10 percent of the country’s electricity needs.