At present, nuclear power is not part of Turkey’s energy production portfolio. Construction of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant at Akkuyu was commenced in April 2015 with commissioning of the first unit planned to be completed in 2024. Preparatory work for at least two other nuclear power plants is in progress. Recently, Turkey has adopted its own legal framework governing the nuclear power plants and made administrative changes to better regulate its new nuclear power market. We assist clients with drafting comprehensive nuclear law and regulations on safety, security, safeguards, and civil liability for nuclear damage; verify alignment of contracts with national and international laws; and advise on regulatory reviews and licensing procedures and export controls compliance issues. We develop and deliver tailored guidance on human resource development in the field of nuclear law and regulations.
At present, there is no nuclear power plant (NPP) in operation in Turkey. However, Türkiye is considering embarking on a nuclear power programme and is planning to install three NPPs, which will include 12 nuclear power reactor units.
Since 1950, Türkiye has had plans in place to establish nuclear power generation capabilities. In order to meet the increasing domestic demand for energy and reduce its dependence on energy imports, various initiatives were undertaken in the past to build Türkiye’s NPP.
Turkey’s first move towards developing its own nuclear power came with the establishment of the Turkish Atomic Energy Institution (TAET) in 1956. Some 20 years later, research led to “Akkuyu” being determined as the most appropriate location for Turkey’s first nuclear plant. Many legislative efforts have been made since then. However, the legal framework which was created in the 1980’s to regulate nuclear power plants remained ineffective as Turkey’s nuclear plans did not come into fruition until 2010.
Direct negotiations with the Russian Federation to build an NPP on the Akkuyu site in Türkiye started in February 2010 and concluded with an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) based on a build–own–operate (BOO) model. The agreement was signed on 12 May 2010.
Turkey has adopted various legislations and established a legal infrastructure in the field of nuclear energy.
International conventions and treaties
The development and utilization of nuclear energy is one of the greatest achievements of the 20’th century. It has greatly enhanced the ability of humanity to understand and shape the world and had a significant impact on the development of technology and civilization. In the 21’st century, the United Nations (UN) has developed the “Millennium Development Goals” and the “2030 Sustainable Development Goals” to promote a comprehensive solution to the world’s social, economic and environmental issues. To this end, nuclear energy offers unique advantages, but the associated risks and challenges of its further development and utilization must be addressed. Nuclear law is a powerful tool for regulating its development and responding to those risks and challenges.
More than 20 conventions have been signed, such as the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy executed in 1960 and the Nuclear Safety Convention signed in 1994; also bilateral agreements have been made with various states and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The list includes;
Nuclear safety and emergency response
- Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency
- Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident
- Convention on Nuclear Safety
Nuclear security, non-proliferation and nuclear safeguards
- Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
- Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material
- Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material
- International Convention for the Suppression of Terrorist Bombings
- International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism
- International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism
- Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty*
Liability and compensation for nuclear damage
- Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy
- Joint Protocol Relating to the Application of the Vienna Convention and the Paris Convention
The international nuclear legal framework has come into being with the development of nuclear energy worldwide. It has been continuously improved as the social, economic, scientific and technological issues associated with the development of nuclear energy are addressed, which has promoted the safe, secure and sustainable development of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
The 1982 revised version of the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy (Paris Convention) is in effect in Turkey. The Paris Convention establishes general principles regarding civil liability in case of nuclear accidents which can be directly applied by the Contracting States but leaves room for internal laws to regulate specific issues. In fact the Convention requires the Contracting States, in certain cases, to issue internal laws to regulate those issues.
The Akkuyu and Sinop Agreements are two of the most important agreements that Turkey has signed. Since international agreements are above domestic laws according to the Turkish Constitution, execution of such international agreements have created a shortcut to determine operators of nuclear power plants.
The first international agreement is the Akkuyu Agreement with Russia – giving the right of establishing a power plant in Mersin, Akkuyu, to the Russian Atomic Corporation, Rosatom.
The Akkuyu Agreement establishes a joint stock company in Turkey, which will be the operator and imposes a condition for Rosatom and its affiliated companies to hold at least 51% shareholding in the company. Rosatom established Akkuyu NGS Elektrik Uretim AS (NGS) and currently holds 100% of the shares together with its affiliated companies. The 4.8 GWe nuclear power plant will consist of four units each with its own generation capacity. NGS is bound to complete the construction within seven years as of the date it obtains all of the permits for construction. Each of the remaining units shall be constructed within one-year intervals of the construction of the first unit.
The Akkuyu Agreement provides a sales guarantee for NGS. Through Article 10, NGS and Turkish Electricity Trading and Contracting Co (TETAS) shall conclude a power purchase agreement within 30 days of the date of obtaining the electricity generation license by NGS from the EMRA. On the basis of this agreement, TETAS shall purchase from NGS a fixed amount of electricity produced in all units of the nuclear power plant for 15 years. TETAS shall purchase 70% of the electricity produced by Unit 1 and Unit 2, and 30% of the electricity produced by Units 3 and 4 of the nuclear power plant at a price of US$12.35 per kwh. Additionally, NGS will also be able to offer the remaining electricity it generates to the market by itself or through an energy retail supplier.
The Akkuyu Agreement also requires NGS to train Turkish students in the nuclear field and also to use essentially Turkish companies for procurement, service and construction.
The second international agreement is the Sinop Agreement with Japan – giving the right of establishing a power plant to a consortium consisting of Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Itochu Corp. and France’s GDF Suez (JapCo).
The Sinop Agreement is a more detailed and complex agreement than the Akkuyu Agreement. In fact it is a set of two international agreements annexed to which is an agreement between Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and the project company to be established by the JapCo. The Sinop Agreement requires JapCo and the State Electricity Production Company (EUAS) to jointly establish a project company (SinopCo) which will become the operator of the nuclear power plant to be established in Sinop. The shareholding percentage of EUAS will be 49% in the SinopCo. With this move, Turkey plans to gain experience in the operation of a nuclear power plant which should pave the way for Turkey to operate a nuclear power plant independently in the future.
Unlike the Akkuyu Agreement, the Sinop Agreement also foresees a technology transfer to be made to Turkey and training of human resources in the nuclear field. The Sinop Agreement provides provisions regarding civil liability and refers to the Paris Convention and the Nuclear Civil Liability Law which should be enacted by the Turkish Parliament for civil liability issues.
In addition to international agreements, efforts have been made to establish the legal infrastructure of the nuclear energy field with a number of legislative arrangements. For this purpose; various statutes, regulations and communiques were enacted.
The decree-law on Organization and Duties of Nuclear Regulatory Authority and Amendments to Various Laws, Decree-Law No. 702, was issued by the Cabinet on 9 July 2018 as one of the transition decree laws. Decree-Law No. 702 is a comprehensive nuclear law regulating nuclear safety, nuclear security, nuclear safeguards, radiation safety, radiation protection, and other related subjects on this topic. Furthermore, it established a new independent nuclear regulatory authority, the NDK. However, Decree-Law No. 702 was annulled with the decision of the Constitutional Court due to procedural reasons. Due to annulment decision, there was need to replace Decree Law No. 702 and Presidential Decree No.4. To replace these laws, Law No. 7381 and Presidential Decree No. 95 were prepared and came into force on 8 March 2022. The content of the Law No. 7381 remains mostly same with the Decree-Law No. 702.
Law No. 7381
Nuclear Regulation Law No. 7381 [the “Law”] was published in the Official Gazette on March 8, 2022 and entered into force on the same day. The Law mainly regulates nuclear energy and ionizing radiation activities, as well as operators, facilities, devices, and other matters associated with these activities in detail.
The new Nuclear Regulatory Law, which consists of a total of 29 articles, and prepared in accordance with the relevant directives and guides of the International Atomic Energy Agency draws an important legal framework for Turkey on issues such as all kinds of authorisation, inspection, administrative structuring of institutions, financial and penal provisions related to nuclear facilities in order to establish the overall nuclear energy strategy of Turkey.
Presidential Decree No. 95
With the Statutory Decree No. 702 published in 2018, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, which has regulatory control over nuclear energy activities, was established, but the Constitutional Court cancelled the said Decree in 2020. Upon the cancellation decision, the legal infrastructure of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority was re-established with the Nuclear Regulation Law No. 7381 dated 5 March 2022 and the Presidential Decree on the Organisation and Duties of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority No. 95.
Nuclear Regulation Authority
The Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) has the authority to regulate, evaluate, authorise, supervise activities and impose sanctions on activities related to nuclear energy and ionising radiation.
The duties and authorities of the NRA are determined by the President of the Republic in Presidential Decree No. 95. The duties and authorities of the NRA are as follows:
- To determine the strategy, target, and working principles of the Authority.
- To issue regulatory requirements and decisions in the areas of its duties and authorities.
- To grant authorizations; to define and modify the technical, legal, administrative and financial scope and conditions of the authorizations; to restrict, suspend, end and revoke the granted authorizations; to determine and change the duration of the authorizations; to review and evaluate the information and documents submitted to the Authority for or after the authorization; to define and modify the conditions of the authorization given as a result of the evaluation.
- To inspect or investigate the activities or places within the scope of its duties or authorities or have them inspected or investigated before and after the authorization;
- To determine issues requiring approval with the scope of safety, security and safeguards; to grant approval and to determine conformity criterion if necessary.
- To request and evaluate all the required information and documents from the applicants and authorized persons, to use the information and documents in compliance with the confidentiality requirements.
- To request the authorized person to carry out a safety assessment for the activity when deemed necessary;
- To determine whether the authorized persons have fulfilled their obligations related to the insurance or financial guarantee for nuclear liability and related to the special accounts of radioactive waste and decommissioning.
- To carry out the tasks and procedures related to the administrative sanctions with scope of the Law No. 7381.
- To establish and operate the national radiation source recording system, national central dose recording system, and national nuclear material accounting and control system.
- To conduct the national radiation monitoring activity or to have it conducted.
- To cooperate with the institutions and organizations of other countries and international organizations, participate in joint activities, or coordinate the activities carried out with these organizations in the scope of its field of responsibility.
- To inform relevant national or international organizations about extraordinary events.
- To have research and development activities in the field of safety and security necessary to support its regulatory activities carried out.
- To exchange information, cooperate, and communicate directly with the public and private institutions and organizations, non-governmental organizations and the public.
- To determine regulatory activities, decisions, and opinions to be sent to national and international institutions and organizations and to be disclosed to the public.
- To request all kinds of necessary information and documents related to a subject from all real and legal persons, including public institutions and organizations, and/or to examine them on-site.
- To cooperate with the AFAD and relevant institutions and organizations in the management of radiation emergencies that may occur as a result of activities not under regulatory control.
While building the framework of the authority and responsibilities of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the Law also introduces strict liability for operators for nuclear damages that may arise during nuclear energy and ionizing radiation activities.
Strict Liability and Liability Limitations for Nuclear Facility Operators
According to the Law, the person operating the nuclear facility will be liable for the damages, and hence be responsible for compensation, regardless of whether the operator, personnel and the technology, goods and service providers related to the facility have had any fault in the occurrence of the nuclear incident. Therefore, the person operating a nuclear facility has a strict liability; in other words, it can be held liable for damages even if it has no fault in the nuclear incident’s happening. However, there are several exceptions to the operator’s strict liability. In this respect, the operator will not be liable for any damage caused by a nuclear disaster that occurs as a result of an armed conflict, hostile acts, civil war, or an insurrection.
The law also sets limitations on how much the operator can be held liable for. Accordingly, the responsibility of the operator will be limited to following amounts:
- 700 million Euros for nuclear reactors with a thermal power of more than 10 megawatts and other nuclear facilities, as determined by the assessment to be conducted prior to the Authority issuing a license to operate a nuclear facility,
- 70 million Euros for nuclear facilities not included in the above scope,
- 80 million Euros for the transport of nuclear materials, and
- 700 million Euros for the transit of nuclear materials within the borders of the Republic of Turkey.
The Law obliges nuclear facility operators to get insurance or provide collateral in the above-mentioned amounts. Accordingly, affected persons will be able to claim their damages directly from the operator, insurer, nuclear insurance pool, and other guarantee providers.
If damages exceed the above-mentioned amounts, the Nuclear Damage Detection Commission [the “Commission“] will be established for the compensation of nuclear damages. Affected persons will need to make an application for compensation, which will then be evaluated by the Commission prior to compensation. Thereafter, the Commission will be able to collect the paid compensation within the above-mentioned liability limits, from the operator, its insurer, or the guarantee provided.
In circumstances where there is no provision regarding liability, the Paris Convention, to which Turkey is a party, will be applied.
Statute of Limitations and Competent Court
According to the Law, different statute of limitations apply to loss of life and personal injury, and other damages. In this respect, for compensation claims regarding loss of life and personal injury the statute of limitations is 30 [thirty] years from the date of the nuclear incident, while for other damages the statute of limitations is 10 [ten] years. In addition, Turkish courts are authorized in nuclear incidents that took place within the borders of the Republic of Turkey, and Ankara courts have been given final jurisdiction in these proceedings.
Nuclear Regulation Authority and License Requirement
Activities governed by the Law can only be exercised after the notification of or authorization by Nuclear Regulatory Authority [“The Authority”]. It is required to obtain a license from the Authority in order to operate a nuclear facility, a radiation facility, a radioactive waste facility, or to carry out radiation applications.
On the other hand, the NUTED Nuclear Technical Support Joint Stock Company was established as a private legal entity to provide technical support services such as consultancy, surveillance, inspection, research, inspection, testing, control, training, and certification to the Authority as needed.
The Turkish licensing system includes a “3S” (safety, security, and safeguards) approach. During the evaluation of licence application, submitted reports and programmes related to safety, security, and safeguards are reviewed by the regulatory body. The approval of the physical protection programme and the nuclear material accountancy and control system of the NPP is a prerequisite before granting permission to bring nuclear material on-site. The final information regarding emergency management is reviewed before the fuel loading is permitted.
The licensing process includes the review and assessment of a set of documents for each licence application. These documents include:
- Preliminary safety analysis report (PSAR) or final safety analysis report (FSAR);
- Physical protection programme documentation;
- Nuclear material accountancy and control system documentation;
- Emergency plans;
- Management system documents;
- Other documents.
Nuclear power plant licensing activities are carried out by the Nuclear Installations Department. This department’s main responsibilities are licensing of nuclear installations (review and assessment of documentation related to nuclear safety) and coordination of licensing activities between technical departments. All authorizations related to nuclear installations are awarded by the Nuclear Regulatory Board.
The licensing procedure is initiated by the applicant, to be recognized as the ‘owner’. The licensing process for an NPP comprises three main stages in succession: site licence, construction licence, and operating licence. There are several permits functioning as hold points during the licensing process. These include the limited work permit, commissioning permit, fuel loading, and test operations permit for the operating licence
The Law additionally regulates punitive and administrative sanctions, indicating that individuals who commit the acts enumerated in the relevant provisions will be punished with imprisonment or a fine.
Preventing nuclear proliferation, maintaining nuclear safety and nuclear security
The Turkish regulatory structure is composed of laws, decree-laws, presidential decrees, regulations, guides, and codes and standards. The hierarchical pyramid of the Turkish regulatory structure, the legislative and regulatory framework of Türkiye is consistent with international conventions, treaties, and IAEA Safety Standards in most aspects of nuclear safety, security and safeguards.
The people of all countries live in a global village, forming a community of shared destiny. Each country should not only enjoy the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, but also shoulder the responsibility and obligation of preventing nuclear proliferation, maintaining nuclear safety and nuclear security.
The energy transition is underway, and our nuclear lawyers are at the heart of the structural shift from fossil-based to carbon-free energy that will shape the first half of the 21’st century. We look forward to helping your business on this journey. Whichever part of the nuclear lifecycle you’re on, our lawyers have the dedicated experience with the cutting-edge technologies – and the commercial and regulatory challenges surrounding them – to help you achieve your full potential.
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