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The Akkuyu NPP, currently under construction in Turkey, was not damaged by the major earthquake that recently struck central Turkey and northwest Syria, according to Rosatom. Anastasia Zoteeva General Director of Russian project company Akkuyu Nuclearsaid earth tremors of about magnitude 3 were felt “but our specialists have not revealed any damage to building structures, cranes and equipment”. However, she added, “We are nevertheless carrying out extensive diagnostic measures to make sure that construction and installation operations can continue safely.”

The magnitude 7.5 earthquake was recorded in six regions of Turkey, as well as in Syria causing thousands of deaths as well as extensive damage to infrastructure. “We will provide all possible support to the victims of the earthquake, said Zoteeva. The department of mobilisation training, civil defence & emergency situations, and the emergency centres of Akkuyu Nuclear are cooperating with the Turkish Emergency Management Agency (AFAD), she added. They are preparing to send equipment and personnel to help eliminate the consequences of the earthquake.

The International Atomic Energy Agency tweeted that: "As of now, no impact from earthquakes on nuclear safety & security in Turkey, its Nuclear Regulatory Authority told IAEA." It added that there were "no issues so far related to radiological safety & security of radioactive sources, and the country's nuclear power plant under construction is unaffected".

The Akkuyu plant, in the southern Mersin province, is Turkey's first NPP. Rosatom is building four VVER-1200 reactors, under a build-own-operate model. Construction of the first unit began in 2018, with start-up planned for 2023. The 4,800 MWe plant is expected to meet about 10% of Turkey's electricity needs. Nuclear reactors are designed to be able to withstand natural hazards such as earthquakes, and Russian plants have extra seismic protection. The Akkuyu plant has been designed with additional earthquake protection measures including a reactor building foundation slab designed to be "highly earthquake-resistant".

Soviet/Russian designed plants have also withstood severe earthquakes in Armenia and Iran. In 1988, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake, which killed at least 25,000 people in north-western Armenia was felt at the two-unit Armenian NPP located approximately 75 km south of the epicentre, but both Soviet-designed VVER-440 units operated normally and no damage was reported. This was the first Russian NPP specifically designed for seismic areas. Also, in 2013, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake in Iran caused no damage to the Russian-built VVER-1000 reactor at the Bushehr NPP, athough some cracking of concrete was later reported. The plant is designed to withstand magnitude 8 earthquakes.

Image: The Akkuyu nuclear power plant construction site (courtesy of Rosatom)

Date: Friday, 10 February 2023
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