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Nuclear Awareness Project
Media Backgrounder
June 1998

The Threat of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation from Turkey

The dark underside of nuclear power has always been its potential for nuclear weapons proliferation, either through the reprocessing of spent fuel to produce plutonium - - an inevitable byproduct of reactor operation - - or through the transfer of sensitive nuclear information, technology and materials.

Canadian nuclear cooperation with India and Pakistan provides a chilling example of how the transfer of so-called "civilian" nuclear technology can contribute directly and indirectly to the development of nuclear weapons. Canada provided the technology at the foundation of the Indian and Pakistani nuclear programs and continues to provide vital information and assistance to maintain those programs through the CANDU Owners Group (COG).

The Turkish Electricity Generation and Transmission Company (TEAS - - a state-owned utility) is expected to soon make a long-awaited announcement about the winner of a bidding process to build a nuclear power station at Akkuyu Bay on the Mediterranean. Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) is bidding to sell two 700 MW CANDU reactors to Turkey at a cost of about $4 billion (CDN). It is bidding against a German/French consortium (Nuclear Power International - NPI - is a cooperative venture between Siemens/KWU and the French national nuclear company Framatome). The third consortium bidding is a partnership of Westinghouse and Mitsubishi.

Three items providing background on the possible nuclear weapons proliferation threat from nuclear power development in Turkey follow.

The first item is an article from the Turkish daily newspaper "Radical" on June 1, 1998. The article is entitled Pakistan's offer for cooperation. Radical is a major daily paper of an intellectual nature (it is NOT particularly left-wing, as the name might suggest). We have investigated the report and have confidence in its reliability. The reported offer from Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to Turkish President Suleyman Demirel took place on May 11, 1998 - - the day after India exploded its first three nuclear bombs on May 10.

The second item is a report on a former Turkish NATO General making a thinly veiled statement in support of a nuclear weapons program for Turkey. This report indicates that there is at least some support in the Turkish military for nuclear weapons development. Although Turkey is a nominal democracy, nobody has any doubts that the military really runs the country. For example, it was the military that forced the government of Necmettin Erbakan to step down in June 1997, and replaced it with the government of Mesut Yilmaz.

The third item is an excerpt from a report called "The CANDU Syndrome" that I wrote in 1997. It provides some historical background with evidence of Turkey being used to ship nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan; and an attempt to purchase a reactor from Argentina, likely for plutonium production. The purchase was stopped by pressure from the USA.

It is very likely that nuclear-armed confrontation is in the future of the middle east if nuclear development is allowed to continue unchecked. Israel already has a well developed nuclear weapons program. Iran has two reactors under construction by the German company KWU, with two more to be built there by China. Iraq's nuclear program was destroyed only during the Gulf War.

For more information, please refer to "The CANDU Syndrome" on, or, or contact:

Dave Martin
Nuclear Awareness Project
Box 104
Uxbridge, Ontario
L9P 1M6

tel/fax 905-852-0571


June 1, 1998

Pakistan's offer for cooperation

It is declared that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has offered Turkey cooperation for Nuclear Weapons. Being surrounded by countries with nuclear programs pushes Turkey to take the necessary measures even while it continues disarmament efforts.

By Deniz Zeyrek

Ankara -- India and Pakistan's nuclear tests, which sparked international opposition, have resulted in action in Turkey, which is surrounded by countries with nuclear programs, including Iran, Iraq, Syria and Israel, and the former USSR. Turkey is anxious about the latest developments. On the other hand, according to the information received, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said to Turkey ‘Let's work together on nuclear weapons'. It is reported that Nawaz Sharif made this offer personally to [Turkish] President Suleyman Demirel and to the Minister with him.

According to the information we received, during the May 11-12 Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) Summit at Almati, Kazakhstan, President Suleyman Demirel met with Nawaz Sharif. During the discussions Demirel put the India-Pakistan conflict onto the agenda. Nawaz Sharif explained that a large part of the conflict was caused by India's nuclear tests, and said that Pakistan is also conducting nuclear research for defense purposes.

Foreign threats

Border disagreements between Pakistan and India, and their declaration of themselves as nuclear states, prompted Turkey to put nuclear weapons on the agenda as a national security issue. The record of Turkey's neighbours on nuclear and chemical weapons, also led Ankara to undertake an initiative in this direction. One cabinet member spoke about the anxiety of Turkey because of the danger with which it is confronted, and said: "We must also acquire these technologies in the next ten years. The necessary investments are unavoidable."

Because the efforts of the UN Security Council and the international campaign for the reduction of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons could fail, Turkey's defense plans were put onto the political agenda of the Government. Some of the members of the government continue to insist that these initiatives should be taken, and they defend the use of nuclear technology for military purposes. Ankara, however, is demanding that a "regional forum" should be constituted and that nuclear and chemical weapons should be removed from the arsenals of countries in the region. [Turkish] Foreign Minister Ismail Cem forwarded this proposal to all countries of the region except Israel. Turkey also continues efforts for conventional disarmament and is trying to revive the Agreement for the Reduction of European Conventional Forces. However, the lack of response >from countries in the region, and the failure of disarmament efforts, leads Turkey to take the necessary measures.


On May 18, 1998, the Turkish TV news channel NTV re-broadcast a program called "Pasaport" which was originally broadcast from Ankara on May 17, interviewing the retired Turkish Lieutenant-General Erdogan Oznal, who was formerly in charge of the Balikesir Nato Air Base. He was responsible for NATO fighter/bomber aircraft in Turkey armed with nuclear warheads during the cold-war.

The moderator reported on the recent nuclear weapons tests in India and Pakistan, and asked the General what his feelings were while he was in charge at the Balekesir Base, waiting for a possible command to launch and fire nuclear weapons. He spoke cooly about waiting over the years for the possible command.

General Oznal described the nuclear threats around Turkey's borders, such as Israel and Iran, which have their own nuclear programs. General Oznal repeatedly emphasized the nuclear threat from Israel, India, Pakistan and Iran, and said: "TURKEY MUST NOW DEVELOP ITS OWN NUCLEAR POLICY". It is clear that Oznal was referring to the development of a nuclear weapons program.


Turkey and Nuclear Weapons Proliferation

This is an excerpt from "The CANDU Syndrome: Canada's Bid to Export Nuclear Reactors to Turkey", by David H. Martin, September 1997. The entire report is posted on the web page of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility,

Turkey ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on April 17, 1980, and the safeguards agreement went into force on September 1, 1981.[1] At the controversial "Extension Conference" of the NPT in April 1995, the five nuclear weapons states sought, and despite strong opposition, obtained indefinite extension of the treaty. Turkey demonstrated its loyalty to the international nuclear status quo by supporting the "indefinite and unconditional extension" of the treaty.[2]

Despite Turkey's observation of the non-proliferation proprieties, there have been past concerns about alleged nuclear proliferation connections with Pakistan. Signing the NPT does not necessarily mean much. Article X of the NPT allows any party to withdraw with only three months notice if "extraordinary events... have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country".[3] Alternately, states such as Iraq and the Peoples Republic of China have simply ignored the strictures of the Treaty, despite their continued adherence. Pakistan has actively pursued nuclear weapons capability for many years, and has refused to sign the NPT. Pakistan is in an unofficial sub-continental nuclear arms race with India — and both countries are considered undeclared nuclear weapons states. Connections with such states may have serious implications — Chinese nuclear dealings with Pakistan have been the main cause of an American nuclear trade boycott of China.

The first allegation of a Turkey/Pakistan nuclear connection was in 1981. The current Turkish ambassador to Canada, Omer Ersun (then Chief of Policy Planning at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the military junta) has confirmed that the US administration protested a $30,000 shipment of "inverters" from a Turkish textiles firm to Pakistan, allegedly for use in the Pakistani uranium enrichment program.[4]

Relations between Turkey and Pakistan became increasingly close after the military coup in Turkey on September 12, 1980. The respective military leaders of Turkey and Pakistan, President/General Kenan Evren, and President/General Zia ul-Haq exchanged a series of official visits that only ended with Zia's 1988 death in a plane crash. In the early 1980s, Greek Prime Minister Papandreou charged that "Pakistan expected Turkey to act as a transshipper of material for a nuclear bomb and would reciprocate by proudly sharing the nuclear bomb technology with Turkey".[5]

It has also been reported that Canada withdrew its bid to supply CANDU reactors to Turkey in the mid-1980s, partly "in response to pressure from Western countries which [are] concerned that Turkey may build a nuclear bomb based on CANDU technology".[6]

Concerns about Turkey's potential involvement in nuclear weapons proliferation have continued in the 1990s. As noted above, international pressure was required in 1990-91 to force an end to joint plans by Argentina and Turkey to build the CAREM-25, a 25 MW reactor in their respective countries. As noted above, Yalcin Sanalan, a former Director of TAEA stated that the CAREM- 25 was "...too small for electricity generation and too big for research or training, however, very suitable for plutonium production"[7] Furthermore, in 1992, Senator John Glenn and other US congressmen accused Turkey of supplying sensitive technology to Pakistan in order to aid in that country's acquisition of uranium enrichment technology.[8]

In 1995, a Greek foreign ministry official, Thanos Dokos repeated concerns about "nuclear cooperation between Ankara and Islamabad... and reports that Turkey might try to acquire nuclear weapons material and technology and recruit nuclear scientists from the Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union."[9]

It has been suggested that the American government does not have serious concerns about the nuclear proliferation potential of Turkey.[10] However, the potential for nuclear weapons proliferation through the sale of CANDU reactors to Turkey remains a valid concern. It can be assumed that the American government is pleased with the ouster of Erbakan's Islamist Refahyol government, and its replacement by the more pro-western government of Mesut Yilmaz in June 1997. However, two issues must be raised in response. One is that Erbakan may be returned to power in the near future if the military allows a democratic election to take place. Second, continued military domination of Turkey should not really give any reassurance. As noted above, the military has also had strong ties to Pakistan, and may favour the creation of `Islamic' nuclear weapons.


1. United Nations, The United Nations and Nuclear Non-Proliferation, UN Department of Public Information, 1995, Document 46, p. 183.

2. Kibaroglu, ibid., p. 33.

3. United Nations, ibid., p. 62.

4. Kibaroglu, ibid., p. 35.

5. "Turkey's role in Pakistan's nuclear program", Worldwide Report, March 20, 1987, pp. 14. Cited in: Kibaroglu, ibid., p. 35.

6. "Canadian firm drops bid to build nuclear plant", Nuclear Developments, February 25, 1988, p. 39. Cited in: Kibaroglu, ibid., p. 36.

7. Cited in: Kibaroglu, ibid., p. 38.

8. Kibaroglu, ibid., p. 39.

9. Thanos Dokos in "Greece", in Harald Muller, ed., Nuclear Export Controls in Europe, Brussels, European Interuniversity Press, 1995, p. 208. Cited in: Kibaroglu, ibid., p. 39.

10. Mark Hibbs, ibid., September 4, 1997, p. 8.

Nuclear Awareness Project
P.O. Box 104
Uxbridge, Ontario
L9P 1M6

Tel/Fax 905-852-0571

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