Turkey Turns to China for Next Step in Nuclear Construction

image is BloomburgMedia_S0ZBYODWRGG001_15-09-2023_11-00-08_638303328000000000.jpg

Smoke arise from cooling towers Photographer: Balint Porneczi/Bloomberg

Turkey said it is closing in on an agreement with China for construction of a new nuclear power plant, a step that would mark a leap in Turkish efforts to lower oil and gas imports.

Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar said talks can be finalized “in a few months’ time” after Chinese officials recently visited the likely site of the future plant, near the borders with Bulgaria and Greece.

“We’ve been in talks with a Chinese company for a very long time,” Bayraktar told reporters in a press conference on Thursday, adding that any differences aren’t major obstacles. “So we will be able to fill the gaps and strike a deal soon with China for the nuclear power program.”

Under the deal, China would build what will likely be Turkey’s third nuclear power plant. The first is under construction by Russia on the Mediterranean coast, while a second, on the Black Sea coast, is still in the planning phase. Russia’s Rosatom as well as South Korean companies are both interested in building the second plant, Bayraktar said, while Turkey is seeking more local participation.

The Middle East’s largest non-oil economy sees nuclear as a key pillar of its efforts to lower the cost of its energy imports, which stood at just under $80 billion last year. For Beijing, it would mark a commercial victory, as Chinese nuclear industry has failed to find many international buyers for its Hualong-1 reactor. 

Beijing is negotiating with countries ranging from Argentina to Saudi Arabia for more sales, but Pakistan is currently the only foreign country that’s operating the reactor.

Bayraktar says Turkey’s ultimate objective is to raise electricity output capacity from nuclear power to 20 gigawatts, nearly four times of what the Akkuyu plant can generate when it’s fully operational in a few years. To reach that target, Turkey will probably need an additional capacity of 5GW from small modular reactors, known as SMRs, the minister said.

Turkey Eyes Nuclear Reactor Purchase From US to Phase Out Coal

“We’d like to create a broader nuclear ecosystem in Turkey,” Bayraktar said. “We need nuclear for a successful energy transition toward 2050,” around the time Turkey expects its $1 trillion economy to be carbon neutral.

(Updates with more on China’s nuclear plant projects abroad from fifth paragraph.)

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

By Firat Kozok


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