Quake risk for Japanese-French nuclear plant in Turkey lowered to keep costs down, sources say

Kyodo

Government-commissioned research firms have come up with a questionably low estimate for how badly an earthquake could rattle a nuclear power plant being built in Turkey by a Japanese-French venture, sources say.

The estimated “peak ground acceleration” — the term for ground motion caused by a quake — for the plant in the Black Sea province of Sinop is significantly lower than estimates given for quake-prone Japan’s nuclear power plants, and that means it could be an attempt to reduce construction costs, the sources said Saturday.

Turkey is often struck by earthquakes.

The peak ground acceleration for the Sinop plant was estimated at around 400 gal (or 400 cm per second squared), but some experts said it should be “at least 500 gal, based on Japanese standards” and the topography and geography around Sinop.

For instance, the assumed ground acceleration is 620 gal for Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant and 856 gal for Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi plant.

The assessment was part of a study commissioned by the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, which is overseen by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The aim of the study was to examine potential nuclear power plant construction deals involving Japanese companies in Turkey and Vietnam.

Tokyo-based Japan Atomic Power Co. contracted to undertake the ¥2.4 billion ($20.5 million) study and outsourced the ground acceleration estimate and assessment of active fault zones around the site to other Japanese research firms.

Japan Atomic said it “cannot disclose details of the study” and METI’s agency said it has “not received a report” about the matter.

The joint venture by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and French nuclear giant Areva SA was granted exclusive negotiating rights in 2013 to build the Sinop plant. The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is eager to export nuclear technology to such emerging nations as Turkey and India as part of his national growth strategy.

The consortium plans to build four pressurized water reactors with an output of 1.1 million kilowatts each. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries says a contract with the Turkish government is expected to be sealed this year, with the first reactor expected to go online in 2023.

According to Japanese researchers, active faults are suspected to be present around the site of the envisioned plant. In 1968, a magnitude-6 temblor struck west of the site, and Turkish researchers have warned of the possibility of a major quake occurring in the region again. Residents are protesting the project.