The political dimension of nuclear energy : analysis of discourse on the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, 2010-2015
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For decades Turkey has sought to implement the use of nuclear technology supply. While the arguments and politics surrounding nuclear energy have historically hindered the state’s ability to implement proposed plans in to action, recent agreements between the Justice and Development Party (JDP) government of Turkey and the state of Russia have led to the construction of Turkey’s first nuclear plant which is currently under construction in the southwestern region of Mersin-Adana. On the surface, the Turkish state’s decision to move forward with the development of nuclear energy appeared to be based upon the Turkish state’s theory of energy security, ie. the state’s interest in providing its citizens with a reliable energy supply that is not dependent on foreign resources. However, my analysis of the discourse surrounding the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant (Akkuyu NPP), reveals an alternative political agenda. It furthermore exposes a number of issues enforcing the government’s lack of concern for civil society. This paper examines the ways that the Turkish public talked about nuclear power in Turkey between 2010 and 2015, the years in which plans for the Akkuyu NPP were officially announced and in which the site was launched, respectively. My review of a diverse selection of media outlets, ranging from mainstream publications to concerned citizens’ social media posts, reveals competing priorities in the realms of energy security, environmentalism, modernization and safety. On the basis of my data analysis, I argue that the discourse over the Akkuyu NPP reflects the Turkish government’s intent to establish the country as a dominant nation, by disregarding or misleading the Turkish public, and that this dynamic contributed to a growing communication disconnect between civil society and the state. By reviewing the issues that the state and proponents of nuclear energy leave unstated, this work emphasizes the unexpected and undesirable possibilities that the state’s accelerated nuclear agenda could create for the “New Turkey” and its energy reliant inhabitants. I conclude my argument by urging that the state’s disregard for public opinion and concern for public image runs the risk not only of being damaging to the solidarity of an increasingly fragile state, but also could turn out to be a misstep on the path to self-sufficiency and modernization.