The CANDU Syndrome:

Canada's Bid to Export Nuclear Reactors to Turkey

by David H. Martin
of Nuclear Awareness Project
for the Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout

© copyright September 1997

Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout
Campagne contre l'expansion du nucléaire

1 rue Nicholas Street, #412
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 7B7
tel: 613-789-3634        fax: 613-241-2292

Printed copies of
The CANDU Syndrome:
Canada's Bid to Export Nuclear Reactors to Turkey

are available from the Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout.

ISBN: 1-896863-03-5

Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout (CNP) is a non-profit alliance of safe-energy and environmental groups from across the country, founded in 1989. CNP is dedicated to the phaseout of nuclear power in favour of safer, cleaner energy alternatives. With a solid base of support from close to 300 endorsing organizations, CNP has carried out an extensive educational program.

David H. Martin is a researcher with over fifteen years of experience working on nuclear, as well as other energy and utility issues. He is the Research Director of Nuclear Awareness Project, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to raising public awareness about nuclear issues and energy alternatives. The group carries out research and public education projects; operates a public resource centre; and publishes a newsletter.

Nuclear Awareness Project
PO Box 104 Uxbridge
Ontario Canada L9P 1M6
Tel/FAX 905-852-0571

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

1. Introduction

2. The Demise of Nuclear Power

3. CANDU Reactors: Safety Issues

4. CANDU Reactors: Environmental Impacts

5. The Turkish Electricity Sector

6. The Turkish Nuclear Program

7. Nuclear Weapons Proliferation

8. Financing Nuclear Exports

9. Human Rights in Turkey

10. The Current Political Situation in Turkey

11. Conclusion

Appendix A -- CANDU: What is it?

Appendix B -- AECL Corruption and Agent Fees


List of Tables

Table 1. Turkish Electricity Generation -- 1995

Table 2. Agent Fees Paid by AECL 1977-1996

Executive Summary

In December 1996, the Turkish state electrical utility TEAS invited bids from foreign reactor vendors for the construction of a 100% financed nuclear power station to be built at Akkuyu Bay on Turkey's Mediterranean coast. Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) is bidding to supply two to four 700 MW CANDU reactors in a two-unit or four-unit station.

Ironically, just as Canada has shut down one-third of its own nuclear power reactors because of technological problems, AECL is trying to sell the same flawed technology to countries in the developing world. AECL's attempt to sell CANDU reactors to Turkey is a tragic mistake, that if successful, would have very high costs for the citizens of both Canada and Turkey.

Many observers believe that Ontario Hydro's August 1997 announcement of the shutdown of seven reactors heralded the beginning of the end of nuclear power in Canada. By March 1998, ten of Ontario Hydro's CANDU reactors will be shut down, most having operated for only about one-half of their expected 40-year lifetimes.[1] High cost, poor performance and endemic technical problems make it unlikely that they will ever be restarted. In 1996, CANDU performance was by far the worst of all major reactor types.

In Canada, there have been no new reactor orders since 1978. The situation is similar in the United States, where the last uncancelled reactor order was placed in 1973.

There is strong grassroots opposition to the proposed Akkuyu Bay nuclear plant in Turkey, where, as in Canada, citizens are fighting their government in order to promote a truly sustainable energy future based on efficiency and renewable energy. Unlike Canada, however, Turkey has the opportunity to avoid the disastrous mistake of building nuclear power plants in the first place.

Turkey has made four attempts to start a nuclear power program, beginning in the 1960s. AECL spent untold millions of dollars in an unsuccessful attempt to sell a CANDU reactor to Turkey in the mid-1980s. At that time, AECL was championed by the Energy Minister of the day -- Jean Chrétien. AECL's bid was ultimately vetoed by the Canadian Cabinet of the day, because the financial risk was deemed unacceptable. Unfortunately, as Prime Minister, Chrétien has been in a position to force approval of AECL's bid to sell CANDU reactors to Turkey, despite the fact that the costs and risks are just as great, if not greater, than they were in the 1980s.

Safety and Environmental Impacts / Alternatives

CANDU reactors are no more or less safe than other reactor designs, and the risk of a catastrophic accident is real. CANDUs have had their share of serious accidents, and it is only a matter of time before a disastrous accident occurs.

Turkey has great potential for energy efficiency improvements, since unlike the rest of Europe, its energy efficiency has worsened, rather than improved since 1980. A truly sustainable energy future in both Canada and Turkey will be based on efficiency and renewable energy -- not nuclear power.

Economic Risks for Canada

In a February 1997 publication by the Campaign for Nuclear Phaseout entitled Nuclear Budget Watch 1997, it was demonstrated that Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) has received federal taxpayer subsidies totalling over $15 billion since 1952. There is no possibility of that massive subsidy ever being repaid to the Canadian government through reactor sales.

Part of the government's support for AECL included $1.5 billion in financing for the November 1996 sale of two CANDU reactors to the Peoples' Republic of China (total cost $4 billion). The sale of two reactors to Turkey would carry a similar financial burden for Canadian taxpayers, who would not only provide the funds, but bear all of the risk if the money was not repaid.

Such a loan cannot be considered a commercial transaction. Like the loan to China, it would go through a crown corporation, the Export Development Corporation, on its Canada Account, which is carried on the books of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The loan would be too big and too risky for the private sector or the Export Development Corporation to consider on their own. That is why every reactor sale actually increases the financial burden on Canadian taxpayers.

Turkey is demanding 100% financing of the two to four 700 MW reactors, even including the local costs, which will be to its direct economic benefit. It is not clear if Turkey will provide a 'hard' sovereign guarantee of the debt. In addition, there are crucial questions about:

  • the absence of risk insurance on the loans;

  • whether AECL will be required to provide a performance guarantee (CANDU performance has declined alarmingly in recent years);

  • who will make up the shortfall in case of cost overruns; and

  • the degree to which AECL will give away the store through transfer of CANDU manufacturing and marketing rights.

AECL has kept secret all the contractual details of the November 1996 sale of two reactors to China -- despite the fact that Canadian taxpayers provided the largest loan in Canadian history to finance the deal. AECL is a publicly owned crown corporation -- it should disclose the details of the financial arrangements that it has proposed in its bid to sell CANDU reactors to Turkey.

AECL Corruption

It is a matter of public record that AECL bribed officials in Argentina and South Korea in the 1970s in order to obtain reactor sales. Those bribes totalled at least $22 million. As recently as 1994, AECL's agent in South Korea was convicted and imprisoned in that country for corruption and bribery, after giving a bribe to the head of KEPCO, the Korean state utility that owns and operates that country's nuclear power plants. AECL has in the past disguised bribes as agent fees. Without improved disclosure and oversight, there is no assurance that AECL's corrupt practices are not continuing to this day.

Nuclear Weapons Proliferation

The dark underside of nuclear power has always been its potential for nuclear weapons proliferation, either through the production of plutonium -- an inevitable byproduct of reactor operation -- or through the transfer of sensitive nuclear information, technology and materials. Since the early 1980s there have been reports that Turkey has aided Pakistan in its acquisition of nuclear weapons. Turkey's attempt to build the Argentinean CAREM-25 reactor was likely aimed at plutonium production for nuclear weapons.

Security Threats

Terrorists do not need nuclear weapons if they can trigger a catastrophic radiation release by sabotaging or bombing a nuclear power plant. Potential security threats to a nuclear plant in Turkey would be both internal and external. Turkey has been in a virtual state of civil war for more than a decade, and the longstanding military conflict with Greece over control of Cyprus is again heating up. Cyprus is directly offshore from proposed nuclear station at Akkuyu Bay.

Human Rights in Turkey

Turkey has a long history of gross human rights abuses, and these abuses have worsened in recent years. Abuses include systematic, widespread torture and murder of prisoners in custody; death squad murders; disappearances; restrictions on freedom of speech; and incommunicado detention without legal representation. A virtual state of war with Kurdish rebels has resulted in an estimated 20,000 deaths since 1984 and the displacement of two million people in the southeastern provinces, where a state of emergency is in place.

Turkish Politics

Turkey does not provide a secure environment for a risky, multi-billion dollar, long-term nuclear investment. There have been three military coups d'état in recent years in Turkey -- in 1960, 1971, and 1980. Events of the last year may be considered a quasi-coup. On June 18, 1997, the democratically elected Prime Minister, Necmettin Erbakan, was forced to resign by the military and Mesut Yilmaz, leader of the conservative Motherland Party, was named Prime Minister. The intense political instability of Turkey in 1996-97 has also destabilized the country's economy. Annual inflation in Turkey is at 80%. The annual deficit is about $15 billion, and the country's debt is about $100 billion.


There are many good reasons why Canada should not export nuclear reactors. However, if the government is determined to proceed with its CANDU export attempts, certain minimum conditions should be placed on these efforts. This report therefore makes the following recommendations to the Government of Canada: (1) require full public disclosure of details of the proposed deal with Turkey and establish an ongoing mechanism in Canada for public review and oversight of AECL's business practices; (2) end governmental backing for the loans to Turkey for the nuclear deal; (3) require immediate public disclosure of the fees paid or contracted to AECL's agents in Turkey; (4) be prepared to end the nuclear deal and impose trade sanctions on Turkey if gross human rights violations continue; and (5) end all subsidies for AECL.

1. Introduction

It is ironic that as Turkey considers purchasing nuclear power reactors from Canadian, European and US vendors, these countries have put their own nuclear power programs on hold.

This report argues that the construction of two to four CANDU reactors in Turkey would have detrimental repercussions for both Canada and Turkey. The problems relate to the technology (safety concerns and environmental impacts), as well as to nuclear economics. The reactor sale must be financed in large part by Canadian taxpayers, who must also bear the financial risk, if a hard sovereign guarantee is not forthcoming from Turkey.

In addition there are ethical questions involved. As with the sales of all reactors, and transfer of sensitive nuclear information, technology, and materials, there is a real possibility that we will contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Then there is the question of the appalling human rights violations that routinely take place in Turkey. Should Canada be trading with such a regime?

Corruption is also endemic in Turkey, and there is a real question of whether AECL will engage in corrupt practices similar to those already documented in relation to earlier AECL reactor sales to Argentina and Korea.

2. The Demise of Nuclear Power

The market for nuclear power plants has evaporated in Canada, the USA, and western Europe. In Canada, there have been no new reactor orders since 1978.[2] Ontario Hydro proposed a massive nuclear expansion in 1989, for up to fifteen 881 MWe reactors at four stations, but after more than three years of public hearings, this ill-considered scheme completely collapsed in 1992-93. Moreover, Ontario Hydro announced on August 13, 1997 that it would shut down its oldest seven operating reactors within the following year.[3] This includes four 515 MWe reactors at the Pickering "A" nuclear station, just east of Toronto, and three 848 MWe reactors at the Bruce "A" nuclear station on the shore of Lake Huron near the town of Kincardine. Ontario Hydro had previously shut down one reactor at the Bruce "A" station in 1995. Ontario Hydro is also shutting down Canada's last operating heavy water plant located at the Bruce site. CANDU reactors need large amounts of heavy water for both coolant and moderator, and permanent shutdown of Canada's only remaining heavy water plant has serious implications for future CANDU sales.

The Bruce "A" reactors lasted less than half of their expected 40-year lifetime. The Pickering "A" reactors lasted only 25 years, despite having been re-tubed at a cost of $1 billion (Cdn).[4] The shutdowns will leave Ontario Hydro with 12 reactors -- four at the Pickering "B" station; four at the Bruce "B" station; and four at the Darlington station. Ontario Hydro refers to the current shutdowns as "lay ups", implying that the reactors may be re-started at a later date. However, it is unlikely that the reactors will ever be re-started -- for economic, as well as environmental and safety reasons. The closure of eight reactors is the largest single nuclear shutdown by any utility in the world.

Outside of Ontario, there are only two power reactors in Canada -- one operated by Hydro Québec (Gentilly-2) and one operated by New Brunswick Power (Point Lepreau). The Québec government declared a moratorium on nuclear reactors in the province in 1978. Hydro Québec has no plans to build more reactors, and is considering the early retirement of the one it has. Although there was discussion of building a second reactor at Point Lepreau, that possibility has quietly died, since the federal government is apparently not prepared to provide 100% financing.[5]

A similar de facto nuclear moratorium exists in the United States of America, where no nuclear plants are either planned or under construction. In the United States, the last un-cancelled reactor order was placed in 1973, and since that time about 120 reactors have been cancelled.[6] In the USA, there were twenty permanent reactor shutdowns as of January 1, 1996. There have been six permanent reactor shutdowns since 1990, and a number of other 'temporary' shutdowns.[7]

In the United Kingdom, the privatized utility, British Energy, announced in December 1995 that it was dropping all plans for nuclear expansion. The last nuclear power plant in Britain, Sizewell "B", went in service in 1995, and cost about $3,000 (US) per kilowatt of capacity -- about ten times the cost of a gas-fired plant.[8]

Nuclear development in Western Europe has also been put on hold. Even in France, where there has been aggressive state support for the nuclear industry, the love affair with nuclear power is fading, as shown by the French government's decision in June 1997 to abandon the Superphénix breeder reactor.[9] Denmark, Greece, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and Luxembourg all had lower electricity prices in 1995 than France. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has called on France to reduce subsidies to its nuclear industry and raise rates accordingly. The state electricity utility, Electricité de France (EdF) has a debt of about $30 billion (US).[10]

Unable to sell CANDU reactors in Canada, or other industrialized countries, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) has turned to the developing countries -- seeking to sell a product which Canadian utilities themselves are rejecting. As AECL President Reid Morden has stated, "The key to our industry's survival rests with our ability to succeed in the export market".[11] In a buyer's market for nuclear power, AECL must offer a range of incentives in order to compete with other larger vendors. Past CANDU sales have included incentives such as:

  • generous financing;

  • clearance sale prices;

  • extravagant technology transfer;

  • promise of involvement in other CANDU sales;

  • political favours and trade concessions; and

  • bribes and multi-million dollar 'agent fees'.

2.1. The Chrétien Government

The Liberal Party of Canada, which forms the current federal government of Canada, has allowed Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to make a major political commitment to nuclear power which is not reflected in the party platform. Following the Liberal Party victory over Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative Party in 1993, one nuclear industry insider noted that "When he [Chrétien] was minister of energy in the Trudeau government, he was a great booster of nuclear enterprise both at home and abroad".[12]

Chrétien was federal Minister of Energy in 1984[13], when the Canadian government -- under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau -- was considering the terms demanded by the Turkish government of the day for the possible purchase of a CANDU reactor. At that time, Chrétien was simultaneously supporting: (1) Canadian financing for the Turkish CANDU sale; (2) the federal subsidization of a second CANDU reactor for the Canadian province of New Brunswick; as well as (3) a request from AECL for $120 million to keep open two heavy water plants in the province of Nova Scotia.[14] The Trudeau Cabinet eventually rejected Chrétien's appeal to proceed with the Turkish deal, along with his other nuclear subsidy proposals.

Unfortunately, as Prime Minister, Chrétien has been in a position to force approval of AECL's bid to sell CANDU reactors to Turkey, despite the fact that the costs and risks are just as great, if not greater, than they were in the 1980s.

In the popular press, Prime Minister Chrétien has been dubbed the 'CANDU Man' for his support of nuclear power, and his aggressive personal sales promotion of CANDU reactors abroad.[15] Speaking to the Canadian Nuclear Society on behalf of the Prime Minister, Chrétien's Parliamentary Secretary stated in February 1997, "You can be assured that the Government of Canada supports the nuclear option as a source of energy...".[16]

The Chrétien Cabinet pulled out all the stops to promote the CANDU sale to China. AECL and CANDU sales were the centrepiece of the so-called 'Team Canada' trade mission to China organized by the Canadian government in November 1994. Prime Minister Chrétien and Chinese Premier Li Peng (known as the 'Butcher of Tiananmen Square') signed a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement in Beijing during the trade mission. In October, 1995, Chrétien welcomed Li Peng to Ottawa, again pushing the CANDU deal. When criticized by Canadians for turning a blind eye to China's abysmal human rights record and for saying nothing about it, Chrétien defended trade with China as a way of promoting human rights. But in an open letter to the Canadian Premiers who joined Chrétien in welcoming the Chinese autocrat, the Secretary General of Amnesty International stated that "Silence in the face of human rights violations represents complicity in these violations".[17]

Six months later, Prime Minister Chrétien took time out from his domestic duties to be on hand for the start-up of Romania's CANDU reactor in April 1996. He stated at that time, "everyone knows that [the CANDU reactor] is the best system... Romania has made the right decision. Your children will thank you for your decision."[18] He then went on to Moscow, where he indicated that Canada 'supports in principle' a proposal advanced by AECL and Ontario Hydro to import weapons-grade plutonium into Canada over a period of fifty years. This approval in principle was given without any parliamentary debate and with no mandate from the Canadian electorate.

With the Chinese deal experiencing some last-minute difficulties in mid-1996, long-time Liberal politico and nuclear power supporter Roy MacLaren -- another veteran of the Trudeau government -- visited Beijing on April 29 to rescue the CANDU deal. MacLaren was formerly Chrétien's Minister of International Trade, and subsequently served as a special advisor to the Prime Minister. On May 21, 1996, Anne McLellan, Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, was in Beijing meeting with top level Communist Party officials. McLellan stated, "This is very important to the Prime Minister".[19] Lending support to the marketing effort, Dr. Agnes Bishop, President of the Atomic Energy Control Board (Canada's supposedly 'arm's length' nuclear regulatory agency) signed an information exchange protocol with the director general of China's National Nuclear Safety Administration in June 1996.[20]

Speaking at the signing of the final agreement for the sale of two CANDUs to China in November 1996, Chrétien dismissed criticism of nuclear power, and stated "Some people don't like nuclear energy, but for me, I like it."[21] He went on to state, "We never had an accident... it's not polluting".[22]

Liberal support for the nuclear industry extends directly into the senior administration of AECL. Robert Nixon was appointed Chairperson of AECL by Chrétien in March 1994. Nixon is a former Ontario Liberal government Treasurer.[23] He has been described as a 'soul mate' of the Prime Minister, who had earlier appointed Nixon to conduct the review on Toronto's Pearson airport.[24] Nixon's appointment as AECL Chair came just weeks before the resignation of AECL President Bruce Howe, a former Conservative government appointee who had been criticized by Liberal members of parliament for his attempts to control AECL spending and reduce federal subsidies.

At the same time that it has implemented draconian cutbacks to social service programs, and other government spending, the Chrétien Cabinet is maintaining a significant annual subsidy to AECL. AECL is the federal government's largest publicly owned federal crown corporation. Formed in 1952, it designs and markets the CANDU reactor, and conducts nuclear research of various types. Unlike most government agencies, AECL did not receive any reduction of funding in 1996-97. The federal department to which AECL reports, Natural Resources Canada, itself received a 50% cutback, but did not pass it on to AECL, which received a subsidy in 1996-97 of $174.1 million. The subsidy fell to $132 million in 1997-98, and will be reduced to $100 million in 1998-99, but will supposedly remain at that level indefinitely.

AECL's annual funding does not include other disguised subsidies and loans that added up to a staggering $2.8 billion in 1996 alone. This includes:

  • $23.1 million for the restructuring of AECL's Whiteshell facility in Manitoba;

  • an estimated $150 million for two MAPLE reactors at Chalk River;

  • $500 million for the Irradiation Research Facility (IRF) reactor;

  • $19 million for fusion research;

  • the transfer of $583.4 million worth of heavy water to AECL; and

  • a $1.5 billion loan to China for the purchase of two CANDU reactors.[25]

Thus the Chrétien Cabinet continues to throw good money after bad, in a desperate attempt to prop up a nuclear industry that is failing not only in Canada, but around the world.

3. CANDU Reactors: Safety Issues

In the five-year period from 1989 to 1995 (inclusive), there were over 1,100 incidents at Ontario's five nuclear stations that were serious enough to require reporting to the federal nuclear regulatory agency (the Atomic Energy Control Board). These events included: failure of operating or safety systems, breaches of security, radiation releases in excess of allowable limits, and exposure of workers to excessive radiation.

The CANDU and its prototypes have experienced some of the world's most serious accidents:

  • In 1952, the NRX (a 40 MW reactor that was used to supply plutonium to the US military) at AECL's Chalk River site in Ontario, had the world's first major nuclear accident. Fuel melting, followed by a series of explosions destroyed the reactor core, and there was a substantial release of radioactive materials, including a million gallons of contaminated water.

  • In 1958, an irradiated metallic fuel element at the NRU (another reactor at Chalk River which also supplied plutonium to the US military) broke off and caught fire after being removed from the reactor. 600 men (mostly Canadian soldiers) were involved in the clean-up of the radioactive contamination.

  • On August 1, 1983, a pressure tube in Pickering Reactor #2 had a one metre rupture due to embrittlement, dumping primary coolant into the reactor building. Ontario Hydro had previously claimed that such as accident could not happen -- that pressure tubes would 'leak before they broke'. This accident resulted in the retubing of all four reactors at the Pickering "A" Nuclear Station, at a cost of about $1 billion (Cdn, dollars of the year) -- more than the original capital cost of the station.

  • In January 1990, a computer problem caused a Loss of Coolant Accident resulting in a 12 tonne leak of heavy water from a fuelling machine on Bruce Reactor #4.

  • In August 1992, a tube-break in the moderator heat exchanger on Pickering Reactor #1 dumped 3,000 litres of heavy water contaminated with radioactive tritium into Lake Ontario. It was the largest tritium release in CANDU history, forcing the shutdown of a nearby drinking water supply plant.

  • In December 1994, a valve failure at Pickering Reactor #2 led to 140 tonnes of heavy water being dumped out of the reactor. For the first time in CANDU history, the Emergency Coolant Injection System was used to avoid a meltdown.

  • In May 1995, a valve failure caused a 25 tonne leak of radioactive heavy water at Bruce Reactor #5.

There are also several generic concerns about safety at CANDU reactors...

    Positive Void Reactivity Effect -- Drastic increases in the rate of the nuclear chain reaction can occur if coolant does not circulate properly in the core, leaving a 'void' -- a steam bubble or space -- in the coolant. This can lead to a loss of reactor control. It is a serious design flaw, shared by the Russian-designed RBMK reactor; it played an important role in precipitating the 1987 Chernobyl accident in the Ukraine.

    Flux Tilts -- The flow of neutrons can vary beyond the specified limits in various regions of the reactor core, possibly leading to a loss of control and fuel melting. There have been numerous flux tilts at CANDU reactors.

    Reactor Explosions -- Steam explosions are to be expected if molten fuel contacts the moderator. Hydrogen gas explosions are also possible in CANDU reactors.

3.1. Performance

In 1996, all of Ontario Hydro's 19 operating reactors ran at an average capacity factor (the same as load factor) of 66%. Ontario Hydro's target capacity factor is 80% (capacity factor is the actual electricity production expressed as a percentage of its potential perfect output). Ontario Hydro's oldest station, the four reactors at Pickering "A", had a capacity factor of 36%, and Pickering "B", 49% in 1996.

CANDU performance compares poorly to other main reactor types. For example, 1996 average capacity (load) factors were as follows: Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs) = 77.06%; Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) = 78.98%; Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs, or CANDUs) = 61.5%; and Advanced Gas Cooled Reactors (AGRs) = 76%.[26] This analysis is for 26 CANDU reactors, including two AECL-supplied reactors in India (Rajasthan 1 and 2). CANDU performance was adversely affected in 1996 by severe problems at Ontario Hydro's Pickering Nuclear Generating Stations.

Aging has clearly been an overall factor in worsening performance at CANDU reactors. However, there are several main contributors to the decline of CANDU performance. The single greatest problem has to do with fuel channels -- the calandria tubes and pressure tubes that are a unique feature of the CANDU reactor. As noted above, after only 12 years of operation, Pickering reactor #2 was forced to shut down in 1983 following a major tube rupture that resulted in a loss of coolant accident. The rupture was due to embrittlement caused by hydrogen ingress in the tube alloy. This occurred at the points where pressure tubes had come into contact with calandria tubes due to faulty, out-of-position spacers. The problem forced the early retubing of all four Pickering "A" reactors. Other reactors suffer from the same 'hydriding' problem, although it is less serious because of the use of an improved tube alloy. Pressure tube degradation and the necessity for replacement remain as the greatest known risk and liability of the CANDU reactor design.

Steam generator problems are the second most serious contributor to performance problems. Fouling, corrosion, and fretting due to vibration are the major causes of tube failure in CANDU steam generators. These problems necessitate various expensive and technically difficult remedial programs, and will likely require eventual replacement of some units. Remedial programs include: improved chemistry control of feedwater; high pressure water jet cleaning; chemical cleaning; increased monitoring of tubes; and computer prediction and modelling of problems.

4. CANDU Reactors: Environmental Impacts

Even if a severe accident is avoided, routine radioactive pollution from CANDU reactors can lead to environmental degradation and public health problems. Radioactive contamination is impossible to see, smell or taste, and its health effects may take years to show up, but it can still have deadly consequences.

    Tritium -- The emission of large amounts of the radioactive element tritium is unique to the CANDU reactor, because it is produced in great abundance by the exposure of heavy water to radiation. A 4 Sievert dose of tritium oxide absorbed into the body is lethal to half of those exposed. This dose is caused by about 200 gigabecquerels (i.e. 200 X 109 becquerels, or about 5.4 curies) of tritium oxide. From 1989 to 1992, the eight Ontario Hydro CANDU reactors at Bruce released on average over 4,500 terabecquerels (TBq) (i.e. 4,500 X 1012 becquerels) of tritium oxide to air and water per year (about 570 TBq per year, per reactor). However, accidental tritium releases can be very large -- an accident at Pickering in August 1992 resulted in a leak of 2,300 terabecquerels (i.e. 2,300 X 1012 becquerels) into Lake Ontario.

    In the long term, even minute quantities of tritium can increase the risk of cancer if ingested. The current "objective" for tritium in drinking water in the Canadian Province of Ontario is 7,000 Bq/L, but in 1994 an independent environmental advisory committee recommended that this level should be reduced to 100 Bq/L immediately, and brought down to 20 Bq/L within five years. These recommendations were arrived at by applying to tritium the same standards that are used for non-radioactive cancer-causing chemicals. In addition, ingested radioactive materials such as tritium can cause genetic damage -- that is, damage to the reproductive cells of men and women which can manifest itself in defective offspring. Unlike most other radioactive materials, tritium can be incorporated directly into the DNA molecules that govern the transmission of genetic information from generation to generation. Thus the long-term genetic effects of tritium are a matter of special concern.

    Extensive laboratory experiments have also shown that tritium fed to pregnant mammals is passed through the placenta to the unborn baby, and can result in a wide range of birth defects. In humans, the most common birth defect caused by radiation exposure in the womb is mental retardation. The magnitude of the long-term health effects resulting from chronic exposure to tritium is still unknown due to a lack of adequate data. But once the tritium is released to the environment, it will remain there for decades.

    Low-level radioactive waste -- Uranium mines in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Saskatchewan have left a deadly legacy of over 200 million tonnes of radioactive and acidic tailings. The tailings release many hazardous radioactive elements such as radium, polonium and radon (a gas). Radioactive wastes are also created by the uranium refining and conversion processes. There is no acceptable method for permanently disposing of these wastes, which remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years.

    High Level Radioactive Waste -- High level radioactive waste (mainly used reactor fuel) poses a problem that lasts virtually forever. In Canada, this waste is currently being stored in water-filled pools, or in dry canisters at reactor sites. The Canadian government is holding an environmental assessment on a nuclear industry concept to bury the waste in rock formations of the Canadian north. Environmentalists strongly oppose the underground burial concept because it is unreliable, instead supporting above-ground storage and an end to the production of high level waste. AECL has suggested in the past that high level radioactive waste could eventually be returned to Canada by CANDU buyers. However, this would face strong public opposition and is not an approved policy.

    Other Problems -- The four reactors at Ontario Hydro's Pickering "A" generating station, now over 25 years old, are the oldest CANDU reactors in Canada. They have been experiencing serious technical problems that have had environmental implications.

      In May 1997, it was revealed that Ontario Hydro had dumped more than 1,000 tonnes of copper, zinc and other metals into Lake Ontario. The metals were being eroded from the Pickering stations' brass steam condensers over the last 20 years. Environmentalists have requested an investigation under Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights, alleging that Ontario Hydro officials knowingly reported incomplete environmental data to the Province of Ontario.

      In July 1997, Ontario Hydro revealed that it had failed to report tritium contamination of ground water on the Pickering site for the last twenty years. In 1979 it found 2,150,000 becquerels per litre (Bq/L) of tritium in ground water, and in 1994 found 700,000 Bq/L.

5. The Turkish Electricity Sector

The Turkish electricity sector is effectively a state monopoly. The former Turkish Electricity Authority (TEK) was divided into two state enterprises in April 1994 -- the Turkish Electricity Generation and Transmission Company (TEAS), and the Turkish Electricity Distribution Company (TEDAS). TEAS constructs and operates generating stations, operates the transmission network, and sells electricity to TEDAS and its affiliated companies. TEDAS and its seven affiliated distribution companies distribute electricity to consumers. Losses in the distribution network amount to 17.4%[27], and another 5.4% is given away for street lighting.[28] In 1996, TEDAS was estimated to have purchased 36.4 TWh from TEAS, and the affiliated distribution companies purchased 28.2 TWh.

Turkish electricity generation is mainly derived from hydraulic, coal and lignite sources (see Table 1). Installed generating capacity was about 21,000 MW in 1995 -- 52% fossil-fired, and 48% hydroelectric.[29]

Table 1. Turkish Electricity Generation -- 1995

Energy (TWh)
coal and lignite
natural gas

Report on the Development of the Electricity Sector in Turkey,
Conference "Energy Forum '97", Ankara, April 7-8 1997.

TEAS has made an extravagant forecast of the growth in electricity demand, based on the growth rates experienced in the 1970s and 1980s. Electricity demand in Turkey grew from 57.5 TWh in 1990 to 86.2 TWh in 1995 -- an average of about 6% per year, however, it is unlikely that this high growth rate can be maintained -- the economic and environmental costs will simply be too high.

TEAS predicts that installed capacity will increase from 21,165 MW in 1996, to 33,699 MW in 2001, to 64,747 MW by 2010 and 108,872 MW by 2020. Thus a growth of about 45,000 MW in capacity is anticipated up to 2010, at an estimated cost of $45 billion (US) for generating capacity, and a total cost of $56 billion (US), including the transmission network and other infrastructure.[30] TEAS suggests that there will be 2,000 MW of nuclear generating capacity by the year 2010, and 10,000 MW by the year 2020.

Generally speaking, in the late 1980s, Turkey concentrated on its domestic resources, mainly hydraulic electricity and lignite-fired thermal stations, and to a lesser extent on imported coal. The early 1990s, however, saw a shift to natural gas, for both economic and environmental reasons -- hydraulic and even coal stations are more capital intensive than combined-cycle natural gas plants[31], and as compared to coal, natural gas has fewer environmental impacts.

The staggering size of the anticipated investment in the electricity sector has led Turkey to promote a role for the private sector, although the public sector continues to be dominant through TEAS/TEDAS. Of the $56 billion investment that TEAS estimates will be required to 2010, it anticipates that $37 billion will be provided by itself and TEDAS (the public sector generation and distribution companies), and the balance of $19 billion will come from private sources operating under BOO or BOT financial models.[32] It is unlikely however, that even creative financing approaches on the supply-side will allow the demand forecast to be met. Turkey will need to encourage a much more aggressive approach to demand-side management, since energy efficiency measured by energy use in relation to Gross Domestic Product has declined since 1980 -- the opposite of the general trend in Europe.[33]

Turkey also has a large potential for renewable energy exploitation in a number of areas. Renewable/alternative technologies include: small and micro-level hydraulic; geothermal; solar thermal; photo-voltaic; wind; bio-gas; and bio-mass of various sorts.

Turkey is located at the immediate centre of transport routes between the vast oil and gas reserves of the Middle East and Central Asia, and the markets of Europe. Turkey is thus in a unique position to benefit from low-cost fossil fuel during a transition to a more sustainable energy future. Turkey has relatively abundant domestic hydraulic, fossil, and renewable energy resources. Given this situation, there is little justification for Turkey's proposed development of an expensive and risky nuclear power program.

NEXT: The CANDU Syndrome, Part Two

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