(AFP, ANKARA) - Turkey may cancel multi-billion dollar plans to build it first nuclear power plant amid growing international concerns over atomic energy and a treasury refusal to back the project, the prime minister was quoted as saying Monday.
"We have growing concerns on nuclear energy. The world is abandoning this technology and turning to alternative energy resources," Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit told the liberal Milliyet daily.
"I have not been able to fully accept nuclear energy myself," he added.
Ecevit's remarks came as Turkey is expected to announce Monday the winner of a tender for the construction of a nuclear plant near Akkuyu on its Mediterranean coast.
Asked whether Ankara might scrap the tender, Ecevit replied: "That is possible. We have concerns and we will make a final evaluation."
Turkey has already delayed its decision on the tender eight times, asking the three international consortia -- Westinghouse of the United States and Japan, AECL of Canada and NPI of France -- to extend their offers every time.
The last postponement came in April after the Turkish treasury refused to provide financial guarantees for the project on the grounds that it would damage the government's tight anti-inflation program.
Ankara said at the time that it would announce its decision by July 24.
Last week, Turkey's Energy Minister Cumhur Ersumer said that Westinghouse had warned Ankara it will withdraw from the tender if it is postponed for the ninth time.
Ecevit recalled Monday the treasury's reservations on the Akkuyu project in light of its possible repercussions on the country's ambitious anti-inflation programme.
"(The power plant) is an important factor for our economic balance as well. The treasury is of the opinion that such an investment could adversely affect the economic programme and cause hardship for Turkey for the next few years," he told Milliyet.
The Akkuyu project has come under fierce criticism from neighbouring countries and environmentalists on the grounds that the proposed site for the plant lies only 25 kilometres (15 miles) from a seismic faultline.
Opposition to the plant grew after a strong earthquake, measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale, rocked the neighbouring region of Adana in 1998, killing more than 140 people.
In the face of the criticism, the Turkish government maintained that it needs the nuclear power plant to be able to meet its growing energy demand.
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )