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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Erdogan and Putin mark start of work on Turkey’s first nuclear power plant 

Turkish president also says he may co-operate with Russia on defence projects in addition to the S-400 missile defence system

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin arrive for a press conference after their meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara. EPA/TOLGA BOZOGLU
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin arrive for a press conference after their meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara. EPA/TOLGA BOZOGLU

The leaders of Turkey and Russia marked the official start of work to build Turkey’s first nuclear power station on Tuesday, launching construction of the $20 billion Akkuyu plant in the southern province of Mersin.

The plant will be built by Russian state nuclear energy agency Rosatom and will be made up of four units each with a capacity of 1,200 megawatts.

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan marked the start of construction, watching by video link from Ankara.

“When all four units go online, the plant will meet 10 per cent of Turkey’s energy needs,” Mr Erdogan said, adding that despite delays Turkey still planned to start generating power at the first unit in 2023.

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Speaking at a later news conference with Mr Putin, the Turkish president said the cost of the project may exceed the planned $20bn for the 4,800 megawatt plant, part of Mr Erdogan’s "2023 vision", marking 100 years since the founding of modern Turkey and intended to reduce Turkey’s dependence on energy imports.

Since Russia was awarded the contract in 2010, the project has been beset by delays.

Last month, sources familiar with the matter said Akkuyu was likely to miss its 2023 target start-up date but Rosatom, which is looking for local partners to take a 49 per cent stake in the project, said it is committed to the timetable.

The Interfax news agency cited the head of Rosatom saying the sale of the 49 per cent stake was likely to be postponed from this year until 2019.

Turkish companies have been put off by the size of the financing required as well as by concerns that they will not receive a sufficient share of the lucrative construction side of the deal, two industry sources have said.

Mr Erdogan also said Turkey may co-operate with Russia on defence projects besides the S-400 missile defence system, which Moscow has agreed to supply to Ankara.

Turkey signed an agreement to buy the S-400 system in late December in a move that raised concern in the West because it cannot be integrated into Nato’s military architecture.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will join his two counterparts for a three-way summit on Syria in Ankara on Wednesday.