by Haluk Direskineli
The excitement of joining NATO in 1952 paved the way for the deepening of relations between Turkey and the United States. During this period, Turkey showed an unlimited tolerance and interest in American culture, technology, industrial products, cinema, popular music and news. American peace corps came to our country as English teachers. The American news agency started to operate right next to the skyscraper in Kızılay city center. In this place, American news and propaganda films, space exploration and new automobile news could be watched. Nearby was the American library adjacent to Trust (Güven) Park. The second floor of this library was reserved for children’s books. When my father’s work was busy, I used to spend many hours in this library with colorful English books.
In 1966, the American Nuclear Exhibition was held in Ankara’s Kurtuluş Park. America, ended World War II by detonating two atomic bombs and was using this exhibition as a means of demonstrating their superior leadership in nuclear energy to the world. In the exhibition, nuclear materials, which were stated to be harmless in small doses, were displayed behind protective barriers, and there were many visuals, posters and explanations about nuclear energy. The exhibition toured the capitals of Europe and finally came to Ankara.
The people of Ankara visited this exhibition with curiosity. The exhibition was in a pressurized spherical tent, open for a long time in Kurtuluş (Independence) Park. There was also a small-capacity nuclear reactor in the exhibition, the foundation of which went down to -20 meters. It was to be used for agricultural research. But the time has come, it was decided to close in 1967. The light devices in the exhibition were moved back and the posters, pictures and banners were thrown away. A decision could not be made on how to transport the nuclear materials and the nuclear reactor, which are said to be in light doses, and how they will be treated.
The next part of the event remained a mystery. Some people from Ankara, who are at an advanced age, still have vague memories of this issue. Mr. Metin Atamer, the owner of an important engineering company operating in Ankara for many years, visited the mentioned nuclear reactor twice in his youth.
After the exhibition closed, it was cleaned of nuclear reactor waste, enclosed in concrete and buried in the ground, surrounded by barbed wire. No one was allowed near him for next 7-8 years. In the following years, agricultural soil was laid on it and it became a woodland . The subject reactor was quickly forgotten. This event may have been in the newspapers. Today it is used as the Ankara Municipality ice rink.
When I have work at Hacettepe University, I walk from Kurtuluş Metro station to Kızılay via College road. As I pass through Kurtuluş (Independence) Park, the thought comes to my mind that the nuclear reactor in the American exhibit is buried in the park with nuclear waste. I wonder if these nuclear waste dumps are really here? Has this been checked with a new state-of-the-art Geiger counter? It is known that nuclear waste will only lose its effect after thousands, maybe millions of years.
If the park is still in use, it probably poses no danger as long as there is green space. Recently, there are rumors that Kurtuluş park will become a TED university campus after the transfer process with Ankara Greater Municipality. If construction work begins here in the future, I would be concerned about a possible serious situation we may encounter during the foundation excavation. Do we have a plan for what we should do if we encounter this nuclear waste? These issues leave a question mark in our minds.