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Turkey and China nearing a nuclear power plant deal 

Turkish energy minister says a deal to build a nuclear power plant in eastern Thrace is possible in months as no major issues remain in the negotiations
This photograph taken on April 26, 2023 shows the construction of the Russian-built Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant in Mersin Province in Turkey (AFP)
Construction work on the Russian-built Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant in Mersin Province in Turkey, 26 April 2023 (AFP)
By Ragip Soylu in Ankara

The talks between Turkey and China to build a nuclear power plant in eastern Thrace are progressing and a deal is possible in a few months, Turkish Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar told a group of journalists on Thursday. 

Bayraktar said senior officials from the Chinese government visited eastern Thrace and saw the sites where the construction is planned.

“We came to a very important point that we need to finalise [the deal] in a few months,” Bayraktar said.

“There are some other interested parties and we have already had enough negotiation for certain parts of the deal and we are quite close to [a resolution]. I don’t think we have major differences. We are able to strike a deal soon with China for the nuclear power program.”

A separate source noted that China’s National Energy Administration Vice Administrator He Yang and State Power Investment Corporation Senior Vice President Lu Haongzao were part of the visiting delegation that inspected the area in Thrace. 

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Turkey has an ambitious nuclear program. Russia is already building a power plant in Akkuyu that will become partly operational next year and there are ongoing talks with South Korea and Moscow for a second plant that is planned to be built in Sinop.

The government is also open to building small modular reactors (SMR’s) with the UK, US, and France, but the projects must be licensable - meaning tested and secure - commercial and locally produced.

Bayraktar said Turkey needs to produce 20 gigawatts from the nuclear power plants in the future, adding that Turkey could add five gigawatts of small modular reactors to its system.

The Akkuyu power plant has already made significant contributions to the Turkish economy and energy sector.

There has been a 47 percent local contribution to the project which is valued at around $4.3bn.

Thousands of Turks work on the project making up 80 percent of the workforce building the plant.

Nearly 4,000 personnel will run the Akkuyu plant once it is fully operational, and Ankara aims to ensure at least 30 percent of them are Turkish citizens.

Recently Turkey sent 317 students to Russia to be trained in nuclear engineering and steps are being taken to further develop nuclear training in Turkey, such as new programs at Istanbul's universities and high schools.

Bayraktar added that the government aims for more localisation and more involvement of small to medium countries in upcoming nuclear power plant projects. 

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