UP & ATOM

Turkey 2013 | ENERGY & MINING | FOCUS: NUCLEAR ENERGY

In the race to reduce dependence on imported energy, Turkey is looking to nuclear power as a sound alternative for the future.

With two plants in development and a third potentially in the pipeline, Turkey has taken concrete steps toward integrating nuclear energy into the country's power grid. In May 2013, the country signed a $22 billion deal with Japanese Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and France-based Areva for the construction of a plant in Sinop, with construction set to begin in 2017. As the country's second nuclear power facility, the plant would begin supplying energy to the national grid by 2023, in time for the centennial celebration of the republic's foundation.

By 2020, Turkey targets to increase the share of nuclear power plants in total generation capacity to 5%. “Electricity energy demand in Turkey has shown an increase of about 7.5% in the past decade," Halil Alış, General Manager of EÜAŞ, explained to TBY. “In order to meet this demand with domestic and renewable resources in an efficient, uninterrupted, economical, and environment-friendly way, the nuclear power plants are of great importance." Imported energy cost Turkey approximately $60 billion in 2012.

To significantly reduce heavy expenditures in energy, Turkey has formed partnerships with foreign actors to establish at least two nuclear plants. The first deal was signed with Russia-based Rosatom to start the construction of Turkey's pilot nuclear plant in Akkuyu, Mersin. After construction begins in 2014, the four-unit plant is expected to start supplying a portion of its installed 4.8 GW capacity by 2019. With a project total of $20 billion in investment required for the Akkuyu project, some $1.3 billion in expenditure was budgeted by Rosatom for 2013. Meanwhile, the Sinop plant's full 4.5 GW of capacity is set to come onstream by 2028. Like its predecessor, Sinop will feature four units of at least 1 GW each. Once in operation, the facility will be managed by French electric utility company GDF Suez.

The nuclear power plants to be constructed in Akkuyu and Sinop are estimated to generate 80 billion kWh of electricity annually. In an interview with TBY, Taner Yıldız, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources said, “In order to obtain the same amount of electricity from a natural gas plant, 16 billion cubic meters of gas would be needed annually, imported at a current cost of $7.2 billion." Therefore, for the costs of three years of imported natural gas, a four-unit nuclear plant could be established. According to the Minister, the authorities are aiming to have three nuclear reactors operating by 2023. In a May 2013 interview, Minister Yıldız expressed his intention to build the third nuclear power generator, with plans depending chiefly on the success of the first two in service. In addition, the Minister stated that his target is to build the third plant with indigenous resources. Although the location of the site has not been finalized, reports suggest that the third facility could be built on the Black Sea coast near the Bulgarian border, in Tekirdağ on the northwest coast of the Sea of Marmara, or in Ankara, which enjoys low seismic risk. The ministry plans to announce the site for the third plant with an invitation for expressions of interest by the end of 2013.

Although there is relatively little domestic opposition to nuclear energy, some have voiced concern over the presence of the resource. “Since the Fukushima incident in Japan in 2011, many concerns have been raised regarding the necessity of nuclear power in a country's long-term energy strategy," Anna İlhan, Founder & Managing Partner of Anna Enerji, told TBY. This means that in earthquake-prone countries such as Turkey, “Local community engagement, good engineering practices, and proper regulations are key components to any energy project," she added. With nuclear power becoming an important element of Turkey's long-term energy strategy, the know-how and experience that international companies and investors bring to the table will be most welcome.