'No damage' reported at Akkuyu site after Turkey earthquakes

06 February 2023

Updated Tuesday 10:30 GMT: There have been no reports of damage to the Akkuyu nuclear power plant after two large earthquakes struck Turkey. Following safety checks, construction is continuing, the project team says.

There was a landmark construction moment last month which saw the inner containment dome installed in the design position at Akkuyu unit 1 (Image: Akkuyu Nuclear)

"Aftershocks of about 3.0 magnitude were felt here at the Akkuyu NPP site, but our specialists did not detect any damage to building structures, cranes, equipment," CEO of JSC Akkuyu Nuclear Anastasia Zoteeva said on Monday, according to a Reuters report citing a RIA news agency report.

"Nevertheless, we are carrying out extensive diagnostic measures to make sure that construction and installation operations can continue safely," she was reported to have added.

Later on Monday Russia's Tass news agency reported an update from a spokesperson for Akkuyu Nuclear, saying "specialists conducted a prompt, operational inspection of all buildings, structures, tower cranes, scaffolding and other structures under construction for deviations and damage. No damage was found as a result of the inspection. Construction and installation work continues."​

The International Atomic Energy Agency also tweeted on Monday afternoon about the situation, saying that: "As of now, no impact from earthquakes on nuclear safety & security in Türkiye, its Nuclear Regulatory Authority told IAEA."

The agency's tweet added there were "no issues so far related to radiological safety & security of radioactive sources, & the country's under construction nuclear power plant is unaffected".

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck near Gaziantep at about 04:30 local time. It was reported to be the biggest earthquake to hit the country in eight decades. As of Monday at 16:00 GMT there were 2,300 deaths confirmed in Turkey and Syria, with many more injured or missing. The Akkuyu nuclear power plant is being built about 430 kilometres to the west of the epicentre of the quake.

The Akkuyu plant, in the southern Mersin province, is Turkey's first. Rosatom is building four VVER-1200 reactors, under a so-called BOO (build-own-operate) model. Construction of the first unit began in 2018, with startup planned for 2023. The 4800 MWe plant is expected to meet about 10% of Turkey's electricity needs.

Nuclear power plants and earthquakes

Nuclear reactors are designed to be able to withstand natural hazards such as earthquakes. The Akkuyu plant has been designed with additional earthquake protection measures, its designers said in 2014, including the reactor building foundation slab designed to be "highly earthquake-resistant". Tass reports that the Akkuyu "project is designed to withstand a maximum earthquake of up to 9 on the Richter Scale".

World Nuclear Association's information paper on Nuclear Power Plants and Earthquakes says: "Reactors of both western and Soviet design have been subjected to major seismic activity in North America and Europe without damage. California's power reactors, San Onofre 2 and 3 and Diablo Canyon 1 and 2, continued to operate normally during the 6.6 magnitude earthquake in January 1994. San Onofre, the closer station, was about 112 km from the epicentre.

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."

It also adds: "In April 2013 a magnitude 7.7 earthquake in Iran caused no damage [to the Bushehr plant] according to Iran’s report to IAEA, though some cracking of concrete was later reported. The plant is designed to withstand magnitude 8 quakes."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News