Turkey joins several European and Middle Eastern countries with firm plans to develop a nuclear energy program. The country has a relatively young median age (28) and high GDP growth rate (8.5% in 2011) demographics that point to rapid growth and a need for significant energy capacity. A growing population, healthy economy and desire to become more energy independent, have led Turkey to conclude that new nuclear plants are the best option for meeting current and future capacity needs.
Turkey is one of many countries trying to become less dependent on imported fuels. Currently, 74 percent of the countrys capacity comes from petroleum and natural gas, with about 90 percent of that imported, mostly from Russia and Iran, according to the Daily Energy Report blog. Given Turkeys limited natural resources, nuclear could be a strong, viable option in its energy security quest.
The first nuclear plant, to be comprised of four 1400 MWe units, will provide capacity to 13 million people and meet 17 percent of the countrys energy needs.
On November 21, 2007, Turkey enacted its Law on Construction and Operation of Nuclear Power Plants and Energy Sale, allowing it to establish procedures for building nuclear facilities and selling electricity generated by nuclear plants. (OECD)
While there are no commercial nuclear plants yet, Turkey is no stranger to nuclear technology. The Turkish Atomic Energy Authority (TAEK) was established in 1956 when the country sought to build a research reactor. It operates one research reactor, located at Istanbul Technical University.
In 2010, Turkey signed a cooperative agreement with Russia for the development of its first commercial nuclear reactor. Russia will begin construction in 2013 and could build up to four reactors at the Akkuyu plant site.
A second plant is planned to help supplement the Akkuyu plant. Japan, China and South Korea are all expected to bid on the project.
Turkey Values Japans Advanced Technology
Prior to the great east earthquake and tsunami that damaged the Fukushima-Daiichi reactors, Turkey had been in talks with Japan about developing a second nuclear plant.
Discussions took a break as Japan shifted its focus to mitigating damage, but dialogue between the two countries picked back up in July 2011. On March 23, 2012, the two countries signed a nuclear cooperation agreement that was long in the making.
Taner Yildiz, Turkeys Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, reportedly told the Japanese Nikkei Business Daily that each of the three countries Japan, China, South Korea being considered to build the next nuclear power plant in Turkey were equally favored, but that Japans high technology credentials made it a potentially attractive partner.
The sooner Japan can complete and advance its nuclear regulatory reorganization, the better, according to Yildiz. Japan needs to make up time for the momentum lost as a result of Fukushima. The Japanese government is in the process of establishing a new nuclear regulatory organization.
Turkey has limited nuclear reactor expertise, but has in place a plan to train a new generation of nuclear plant professionals with the assistance of Russia. Nearly 50 college students have already studied in Russia and an additional 75 including high school students will be sent to the country during the 2012-2013 school year. Turkey plans to send up to 600 students to study nuclear energy. Under a scholarship program, the students will be provided with transportation to Russia, housing and a monthly stipend.