The presidents of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russia Vladimir Putin remotely inaugurated the construction of a third nuclear reactor at the Akkuyu power plant in southern Turkey Wednesday.
Erdogan said the plant would launch Turkey into the ”league of nuclear energy countries” and called it a “symbol of Turkish-Russian cooperation.”
Russia is building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant on the Mediterranean coast in Mersin province. The two countries signed a cooperation agreement in 2010 and began construction in 2018.
Nuclear power is a “strategic step” for energy security, Erdogan said.
Energy Minister Fatih Donmez, said the Akkuyu plant would fulfill about 10% of domestic electricity needs.
Erdogan said the first reactor would become operational in 2023, to coincide with the centennial of the modern Turkish state. A total of four reactors are planned.
Russia’s Rosatom State Corporation holds a 99.2% stake in the project, whose total cost is estimated at 20 billion U.S. dollars, according to the plant’s website.
Putin said that the plant will help Turkey’s economy and independence:
“We are convinced that [the plant’s] implementation will make a serious contribution to strengthening the energy security of the Republic of Turkey and help stimulate further growth of its economy.
It will provide Turkish consumers with affordable and environmentally friendly electricity.”
The Turkish president said cooperation between Ankara and Moscow played a “key role” in regional stability.
“We have had the opportunity to see the results of Turkish-Russian dialogue in many fields, including in Libya, in Nagorno-Karabakh, in Syria,” Erdogan said.
Nuclear weapons suspicions
Despite Turkey’s claims the plant will only be used to diversify energy resources, some have suggested Ankara may have plans to enrich uranium.
Al Jazeera reports that Turkey and nuclear-armed Pakistan have long had military cooperation agreements that were recently intensified, with some news reports suggesting Islamabad may be covertly supporting a nuclear weapons programme.
Military cooperation deals have been signed earlier this year with Kazakhstan, a country providing at least 35 percent of the world’s uranium.
Asked by Al Jazeera about possible nuclear cooperation with Pakistan, the senior energy official in Ankara said during meetings in Vienna there have been talks about possible cooperation on peaceful use, under IAEA control, especially in radiation technologies and cancer treatment.