Turkey builds first nuclear power plant, with help from Russia

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) attend a symbolic ground-breaking ceremony for Turkey's first nuclear power station in Akkuyu, on the Mediterranean, at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, 03 April 2018. [EPA-EFE/TOLGA BOZOGLU]

The leaders of Turkey and Russia marked the official start of work to build Turkey’s first nuclear power station on Tuesday (3 April), launching construction of the $20 billion Akkuyu plant in the southern province of Mersin.

The plant will be built by Russian state nuclear energy agency Rosatom and will be made up of four units each with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdoğan marked the start to construction, watching by video link from Ankara.

“When all four units go online, the plant will meet 10% of Turkey’s energy needs,” Erdoğan said, adding that despite delays Turkey still planned to start generating power at the first unit in 2023.

Speaking at a later news conference with Putin, Erdoğan said the cost of the project may exceed the planned $20 billion for the 4,800 megawatt (MW) plant, part of Erdoğan’s “2023 vision” marking 100 years since the founding of modern Turkey and intended to reduce Turkey’s dependence on energy imports.

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Project beset by delays

The Akkuyu project is currently fully funded by the Russian side. According to a bilateral agreement, at least 51% of shares in the finished project should belong to Russian companies, while up to 49% of shares can be available for purchase by outside investors.

But since Russia was awarded the contract in 2010, the project has been beset by delays.

Last month, sources familiar with the matter said Akkuyu was likely to miss its 2023 target start-up date, but Rosatom, which is looking for local partners to take a 49% stake in the project, said it is committed to the timetable.

The Interfax news agency cited the head of Rosatom saying the sale of the 49% stake was likely to be postponed from this year until 2019.

Turkish companies have been put off by the size of the financing required as well as by concerns they will not receive a sufficient share of the lucrative construction side of the deal, two industry sources have said.

Cooperation on defence

Erdoğan told the news conference Turkey may cooperate with Russia on defence projects besides the S-400 missile defence system which Moscow has agreed to supply to Ankara. He did not give further details.

Turkey signed an agreement to buy the S-400 system in late December in a move which raised concern in the West because it cannot be integrated into NATO’s military architecture.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will join Erdoğan and Putin for a three-way summit on Syria in Ankara on Wednesday.

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