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y-zmir factory scandal causes concern over nuclear waste elsewhere.

yZMyR (CyHAN)- Amid growing public concern about the discovery of radioactive waste buried at an abandoned factory in yzmir, experts have pointed out to the possibility that there could be other sites with nuclear waste imported illegally into Turkey from foreign companies that operate nuclear plants.

Public concerns about radioactive and other toxic waste began after a news report appeared in the Radikal daily last week about the discovery of highly radioactive waste buried at a defunct factory on Akcay Street, the main thoroughfare running through yzmir's Gaziemir district. The Turkish Atomic Energy Agency (TAEK), which was assigned to test the plant on Tuesday, stated that the radioactive level at the site did not constitute a dangerous situation, but they didn't address concerns about a radioactive material that might have been brought into Turkey illegally.

The factory, situated on more than 70 acres, used old batteries and scrap lead to produce cast lead until just a few years ago.

In relation to the inspection, a former senior manager of the yzmir factory, speaking on condition of anonymity to Radikal on Thursday, confirmed the fact that the toxic waste of the factory was buried on the site in an effort to save money by not sending the waste for proper disposal. However, he didn't comment on the possibility of nuclear materials being brought in illegally.

It was also reported that locals, particularly children playing in the vicinity, had access to the plant as the wire fencing around the factory had corroded over time.

Radikal reported that TAEK had examined the site of the factory in 2007. A radioactive substance called europium, an illegally imported element used in nuclear reactor control rods, found on the site is thought to be the source of the radioactivity, a report from TAEK showed.

A nuclear engineer at Okan University, Tolga Yarman said the radioactive element could have entered the country along with other nuclear waste, as it was illegal to keep this substance in Turkey. In fact, other sites where nuclear waste was buried have been discovered. A similar case was reported in 1987 by Professor Ahmet YE-ksel Euzemre, a former general director of TAEK and Turkey's first nuclear engineer.

A nuclear physicist, Dr. E[currency]E-kran Can, affirming the possibility that europium could be imported through illegal ways, stated that Turkey must be competent in the field of nuclear waste elimination so as not to be negatively affected by chemical substances found on waste sites. EuztE-rk said nuclear waste disposal centers were available and sufficient in Turkey and that an efficient checking mechanism was needed to manage the disposal process.

Can, pointing to the consequences of exposure to radioactive materials, noted that the primary concern is that people's immune systems might be weakened, after which different cancers could grow. If a radioactive element is inhaled, it may cause lung, palatal and throat cancer.

"Children were reported to be playing in the vicinity, as the factory was located in the midst of residential areas. The locals may suffer from skin cancer as well," highlighted Can, herself a victim of radioactivity after she was exposed to a high level of radioactivity during an accident at the Ecekmece Nuclear Research Center in ystanbul.

"The ministry should have ideal staffing levels to work more closely on the detection of nuclear waste cases by complying with European Union standards, and a control mechanism should be part of this improvement," said Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning Deputy Undersecretary Mustafa EuztE-rk.

Professor EuztE-rk warned about tons of toxic waste which is illegally buried at many other plants in different provinces around Turkey.

"Toxic waste can only be kept on site at a plant for six months provided that plant authorities take the necessary environmental precautions, and the waste should be moved to disposal centers at the end of the period stated by law. However, plants keep running while their waste is buried in the soil without taking any precautions. This is the case for many provinces, including ystanbul, Samsun, Hatay, Kayseri and Mersin," answered EuztE-rk to a question about the legal regulations regarding the conservation and disposal of toxic waste.

A similar case was reported in 1987 by Professor Euzemre, who received an anonymous tip that 1,150 tons of radioactive waste, which were imported from Germany, had been buried on the site of the GE[micro]ltaE- cement factory in Isparta, a province in southwest Turkey. Euzemre had also asserted, in a written document and on several television news programs, that a flour factory in Konya had burned 800 tons of toxic waste on its site in order to generate energy.

He further noted that he would not have given credit to this anonymous tip about the nuclear waste cases in Isparta and Konya if he himself had not received a similar proposal from a German firm who offered him 40 million Deutsche Mark in return for burying 4,000 tons of radioactive waste while he served as the director of TAEK. Euzemre asserted that when he did not accept the German firm's proposal, stating that he "would not let Turkey turn into a nuclear landfill," the firm told him that the toxic waste would be buried in Turkey one way or another.

A research commission was assigned by the Turkish Parliament to check into the claim that illegal nuclear waste was buried around Isparta and had been burned in Konya. The conclusion of the commission, published in the form of general meeting minutes in 1997, showed that the factory sites did not include radioactive elements.

Professor Hasan Saygyn of ystanbul Aydyn University, confirming the contamination caused by nuclear waste buried in Isparta and its surroundings, stated that the people were victims of the gap between legal regulations and practices regarding the disposal of toxic waste. He also highlighted a "reality missed" by many people, noting: "It is impossible to eliminate nuclear waste completely and it could only be conserved in fully equipped facilities. ... If toxic waste is buried uncontrollably or burned, this increases the risk of contamination."

"We must increase awareness about nuclear waste, and develop a culture about nuclear substances," Saygyn noted finally. (Cihan/Sundays Zaman) CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Dec 9, 2012
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