Mustafa Gunes from MGC Legal Law Office explains the Nuclear Regulation Law, which has recently been enacted and entered into force in Turkey, by considering the legal efforts in the nuclear field from past to present
Nuclear Energy in Turkey
Until today, Turkey has adopted various legislations and established a legal infrastructure in the field of nuclear energy. More than 20 conventions have been signed, such as the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy executed in 1960 and the Nuclear Safety Convention signed in 1994; also bilateral agreements have been made with various states and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Thus, in accordance with Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution – stating that international agreements duly put into effect are deemed to have the force of law – these agreements have been incorporated into Turkish domestic law.
In addition to international agreements, efforts have been made to establish the legal infrastructure of the nuclear energy field with a number of legislative arrangements. For this purpose; various statutes, regulations and communiques were enacted, in particular the Law on the Establishment and Operation of Nuclear Power Plants and the Sale of Energy, published in 2007, and the Decree Law No. 702 on the Organisation and Duties of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority enacted in 2018. Besides these, various institutions and organisations related to the field of nuclear energy have been established; it is aimed to grant permits and licences for nuclear energy activities and to carry out all kinds of inspections through these institutions.
With the Statutory Decree No. 702 published in 2018, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, which has regulatory control over nuclear energy activities, was established, but the Constitutional Court cancelled the said Decree in 2020. Upon the cancellation decision, the legal infrastructure of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority was re-established with the Nuclear Regulation Law No. 7381 dated 5 March 2022 and the Presidential Decree on the Organisation and Duties of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority No. 95.
Considering all these developments, it is seen that a legal infrastructure has already been established in the field of nuclear energy in Turkey, but a legislation that draws legal boundaries and can be considered as a holistic resource regarding nuclear energy has not been established. This shortcoming has been eliminated by the Nuclear Regulation Law No. 7381, which was published in the Official Gazette on 5 March 2022 and entered into force on the date of its publication.
New Arrangement: Nuclear Regulation Law
With the adoption of the Nuclear Regulation Law, it is aimed to set out the principles to be applied for the protection of employees, society, the environment and future generations from the possible harmful effects of ionising radiation during the conduct of activities related to nuclear energy; the responsibilities of the parties; the powers and responsibilities of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority which has regulatory control over these activities; and to determine the legal responsibility for nuclear damages caused by nuclear incidents. The important issues regulated in this framework are as follows:
- The Nuclear Regulatory Authority shall have the authority to regulate, evaluate, authorise, supervise activities and impose sanctions on activities related to nuclear energy and ionising radiation.
- Regarding the definitions that are not included in the implementation of the provisions of legal liability regarding nuclear damages, the definitions in the Convention on Legal Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy dated 29 July 1960 and the protocols to which the Republic of Turkey is a party
to, amending this Convention, shall be taken as basis.
- Activities related to nuclear energy and radiation and persons, facilities, devices and materials related to these activities will be subject to regulatory control in terms of safety, security and nuclear assurance.
- Radioactive wastes that have emerged during an activity carried out outside the jurisdiction of the Republic of Turkey cannot be brought into the borders of the Republic of Turkey.
- Persons who produce radioactive waste during an activity subject to authorisation shall pay separate contributions to the special account of radioactive waste management, and persons authorised to operate nuclear facilities, radiation facilities and radioactive waste facilities shall pay separate contributions to the special accounts of decommissioning.
- The operator shall be liable for nuclear damages and payment of compensations, regardless of whether the operator itself, its personnel and the technology, goods and service providers of the facility are at fault in the occurrence of the nuclear incident. However, the liability amounts of the operator for each nuclear incident that will occur within are stipulated in law.
- A nuclear insurance pool will be established to provide insurance for the determined obligations of the operator.
- In cases where the nuclear damage is expected to exceed the limits of the liability amount, a Nuclear Damage Detection Commission will be established by the President of the Republic, within two months at the latest, from the date of the occurrence of the nuclear incident, to evaluate the applications made by the victims of nuclear damage for the compensation of the nuclear damage caused by the nuclear incident and to decide on the applications.
- Only Turkish courts will be authorised in relation to a nuclear incident in Turkey’s sovereignty.
- Persons who manufacture nuclear or radiological weapons, possess, use, expand their use or trade in radioactive materials for this purpose will be sentenced to imprisonment from 25 to 30 years.
‘It is very important for Turkey’s fast-growing economy to make efforts regarding nuclear energy in order to close the energy deficit, and to take it as the main priority that the people, the environment and future generations are not adversely affected while doing these studies.’
In this context; this new Nuclear Regulatory Law, which consists of a total of 29 articles, together with the above-mentioned essential issues, and prepared in accordance with the relevant directives and guides of the International Atomic Energy Agency draws an important legal framework for Turkey on issues such as all kinds of authorisation, inspection, administrative structuring of institutions, financial and penal provisions related to nuclear facilities in order to establish the overall nuclear energy strategy of Turkey.