– Türkiye has decided to negotiate with Russia to build another nuclear power plant at a time when the West is trying to isolate Moscow, and analysts said energy-hungry Türkiye has to be pragmatic to ensure the energy security of its industry and its citizens.
Turkey‘s Deputy Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar said last week that negotiations have begun for a second Russian-built four-reactor nuclear plant in the northern Black Sea province of Sinop.
“We need at least 16 to 20 reactors… or we need 12 to 16 reactors in addition to the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) to be a carbon neutral economy by the turn of the century,” Bayraktar said at the Atomexpo 2022 conference. in Russia.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin came amid moves against Russia by the United States and the European Union (EU) to isolate Moscow with financial sanctions over its military operation. especially in Ukraine, experts said.
Murat LeCompte, an Istanbul-based energy expert, said that Türkiye, as a NATO member, historically has close relations with the United States and the EU, but also traditional ties with Russia, particularly in terms of energy cooperation.
“This is a delicate balance that Türkiye needs to maintain,” he said, stressing that it is not in Ankara’s interest to break its growing energy partnership with Russia as Türkiye is dependent on oil and gas imports.
Negotiations for the construction of a nuclear plant in Sinop began with a Japanese-led consortium, but the deal was canceled in 2020 due to financial differences.
If the project goes ahead, the Sinop reactor will be the second built by Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation, Rosatom, after the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in South Mersin province on the Mediterranean coast.
The Akkuyu plant will have a total capacity of 4,800 megawatts and will also consist of four reactors. The first unit of the $20 billion project is expected to be operational in 2023.
“To ensure energy security, Türkiye, with a population of more than 85 million, must maintain a dialogue with various providers and engage in energy diplomacy,” LeCompte said.
Türkiye has so far avoided calls by the United States and its Western allies to join sanctions against Russia. Meanwhile, Ankara has close relations with both Moscow and kyiv, and helped broker a deal for grain shipments from Ukrainian ports.
Mahmut Aydin, a journalist who is familiar with Türkiye’s nuclear projects, echoed LeCompte’s comments, saying Ankara’s energy cooperation with Russia should not be seen as a challenge to the Western alliance.
“The Turkish authorities consider this partnership essential due to growing energy needs and not as a confrontation with the West,” he told .
A Turkish source close to the government said that Türkiye has prioritized energy security as a result of the current energy crisis, putting nuclear power at the forefront of its energy plans.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced last year that his country will build two more nuclear power plants after the construction of the Akkuyu plant.
If the three planned nuclear plants come online in the next two decades, they could account for about a third of Türkiye’s electricity needs, said the source who declined to be named. ■