No earthquake damage reported at Turkish nuclear power plant under construction

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A devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake and aftershocks hit parts of Turkey and neighbouring Syria on February 6, 2023, which has, till date, tragically caused the death of over 46,000 people. However, no damage has been reported to Turkey’s first nuclear power plant (NPP) coming up at Akkuyu, 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 a statement by the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom, which is assisting in the construction of the Akkuyu NPP.

“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 said.

The simultaneous construction of all four units of the plant with VVER-1200 reactors is continuing, 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 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also confirmed that there was “no impact” at Akkuyu from the earthquakes in Turkey, and the nuclear power plant 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.

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.

Turkey plans to bring the 1,200 MW 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.

A World Nuclear Association’s information paper on Nuclear Power Plants and Earthquakes says that “reactors of both western and Soviet design have been subjected to major seismic activity in North America and Europe without damage. In December 1988, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake, resulting in the deaths of at least 25,000 people, occurred in northwestern Armenia. It was felt at the two-unit Armenian nuclear power station located approximately 75 km south of the epicentre, but both Soviet-designed PWRs operated normally and no damage was reported. This was the first Russian nuclear power plant specifically adapted for seismic areas, and it started operating in 1976.”

Earlier this month, Rosatom also announced that a console truss was installed at Akkuyu unit 3. This is an important element of the safety features called the core catcher, which, in the event of an emergency, reliably retains fragments of the core melt. “The farm-console weighing 180 tons is responsible for the organisation of communications: water supply, steam removal, ventilation, passage equipment. Thus, gas discharge pipelines ensure circulation of saturated steam and do not allow the pressure in the reactor shaft to exceed the permissible values,” the statement said.

Last month, the installation of an internal containment shell was completed at the Akkuyu NPP unit 1, the construction of which is planned to be completed this year. After concreting the dome part of the internal containment shell, the final stage of construction and installation works of the outer containment will begin, the statement added.