Officials attending a groundbreaking ceremony for the Akkuyu power station found themselves temporarily locked in the compound.
Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız and officials from the Russian company Rosatom, which is constructing the plant, were obliged to wait for twenty minutes to be released, while police using water cannons, forced the protesters to unlock the gates.
Speaking to Turkish daily Zaman on Tuesday, ecology expert Pelin Cengiz emphasised that there had been no safety tests on a prototype of the nuclear plant model VVER-1200 to be built in Akkuyu.
She argued that international safety regulations dictate that prior to the construction of a nuclear plant, safety tests must be conducted on a prototype of the plant.
Cengiz went on to say that the environmental impact report (ÇED) prepared for the Akkuyu plant is also problematic as it was not clearly set out how the nuclear waste would be disposed of or what kind of emergency measures would be utilised in the event of an accident.
Energy Minister Yıldız, pointing to the necessity of acquiring nuclear energy for the development of the country, argued that the Akkuyu plant will not cause harm to the environment or locals.
“If this nuclear plant was in operation, it would provide for 28 % of the electricity consumed in Turkey. … It was claimed that tourists would prefer not to come to Antalya or Mersin [once the nuclear plant was built]. Paris attracts the highest number of tourists and there are seven reactors there,” Yıldız said.
In earlier reports, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Aytuğ Atıcı pointed to the potential dangers for local inhabitants brought on by the presence of nuclear reactors.
“Research in a German province revealed that the incidence of cancer among children living in a neighbourhood close to a nuclear plant is 2.2 times higher. Even if an accident does not occur, there are already health risks for those living nearby,” said Atıcı.
In defence of the plant, Yıldız also said that some 10,000 workers will be employed for the construction of the plant, which will cost an estimated $20 billion, with Turkish engineers working at the plant once it begins operations.
Turkey plans to construct another two nuclear power plants in the Black Sea province of Sinop and the north-western province of Kırklareli. Several protests have been staged already in opposition to these plans.