By John C. K. Daly
July 5, 2018
For years Turkey, which imports 90 percent of its energy needs, has considered any and all options to lessen its import costs, including nuclear. The country’s energy requirements have persistently pitted the government against the country’s environmentalist lobby, one of the strongest in the Middle East. Despite such concerns, Turkey’s nuclear lobby has scored a decisive victory, as the ground has been broken for the nation’s first nuclear power plant (NPP) at Akkuyu on the southern Mediterranean coast.
Akkuyu will consist of four 1,200 megawatt (MW) VVER reactors producing a total of 4,800 MW. The Akkuyu NPP, being constructed by the Russian state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom, is projected to meet 10 percent of Turkey's future energy requirements. The first unit of the plant is scheduled to come online in 2023, with the NPP’s overall cost projected to be $20 billion.
KEY ISSUE: On April 3 President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin at the presidential complex in Ankara, where they attended via teleconference the Akkuyu NPP groundbreaking ceremony, an event described by Erdoğan as a “historic moment.” Putin remarked, "It is difficult to overestimate the significance of this large-scale, innovative project. In essence, today we are not only witnessing the construction of Turkey's first nuclear power plant, but we are also creating the basis of Turkey's nuclear industry as a whole.” Despite such optimism about bringing the facility’s first reactor online in 2023, the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey, as highlighted by both Putin and Erdoğan in their ceremonial speeches, it remains to be seen whether such an ambitious agenda will be fully implemented in the future.
By Micha’el Tanchum (vol. 8, no. 2 of the Turkey Analyst)
With the close of 2014 witnessing the beginning of a de facto anti-Turkey bloc emerging in the eastern Mediterranean among the four countries with whom Turkey is in contention, the Turkish government has attempted to reduce tensions by removing a seismic exploration vessel and its escort ships from an area where the Republic of Cyprus has been drilling for offshore energy. However, the stand-down is likely to be temporary as campaigning intensifies in the run-up to Turkey’s all-important June 2015 parliamentary elections.
By Stephen Blank (vol. 7, no. 22 of the Turkey Analyst)
The announcement that the original South Stream is being closed, and is instead going to be redirected through Turkey, is of epochal significance. However, it is by no means certain that Russia and Turkey can pursue antagonistic policies geopolitically and simultaneously maximize the benefits of their deepened energy relation and increased economic cooperation. And in its eagerness to become a gas hub, Turkey has severely limited the possibilities for Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Central Asian gas producers to break free of Moscow’s energy grip.
By M. Kemal Kaya (vol. 5, no. 14 of the Turkey Analyst)
The realization of the Trans-Anatolian Project by 2018 will strengthen Azerbaijan in strategic terms, offering it a route to the world markets that bypasses Russia. The realization of TANAP is a significant geostrategic setback for Russia. However, TANAP is no panacea for Turkey’s energy predicament. Turkey will remain dependent on Russia as a natural gas supplier.
By Richard Weitz (vol. 5, no. 8 of the Turkey Analyst)
Despite its challenging neighborhood, Turkey has an exemplary nuclear nonproliferation record. Several favorable factors have allowed Turkey to abstain from developing its own nuclear weapons and make strong declarations in favor of nuclear nonproliferation. Having physical access to the U.S.-NATO nuclear weapons has been a form of compensation for Turkey’s not developing its own national nuclear arsenal. Even so, while Turkey can boast a largely successful nuclear nonproliferation record, certain plausible developments could still undermine it and force a reluctant Ankara to seek its own nuclear arsenal.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.