- - Monday, September 3, 2012

AKKUYU, TurkeyRussia and Turkey, which were Cold War adversaries, are finding common ground on energy despite ongoing diplomatic disputes.

Turkey has agreed to allow Russia’s South Stream gas pipeline to cross its territorial waters, and Russia is investing $20 billion to construct Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.

The deals have been made even while Turkey criticizes Russian support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and Moscow fumes over a NATO early-warning radar system in Turkey.

“These are countries that have been able to compartmentalize their differences,” said former Turkish diplomat Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies in Istanbul (EDAM).

“It has been a relationship driven by mutual economic gain.”

Gas- and oil-producing giant Russia has enlisted Turkish support for its proposed South Stream pipeline to diversify its access points to European markets.

One of the world’s fastest-growing economies, Turkey has significant energy needs. The majority Muslim nation’s energy demands will double by 2023, according to one projection.

But Turkey cannot do it alone and has sought international partners to build, own and operate a nuclear plant.

Only Russia has come forward and is constructing the Akkuyu nuclear power plant on the Mediterranean coast near the southern city of Mersin. The plant’s design calls for four 1,200-megawatt reactors scheduled to go on line in 2019.

The $20 billion venture will be wholly financed by a subsidiary of Rosatom, Russia’s state-controlled nuclear energy corporation.

Unprecedented cooperation

The Russian firm has agreed to build, own and operate the plant for its entire productive life, with spent fuel sent to Russia for reprocessing. The deal represents an unprecedented level of cooperation between the former adversaries.

“We are the nearest neighbors with Turkey, and we should trust each other,” said Rauf Kasumov, a spokesman for Akkuyu NGS, the Russian company that will own and operate the plant. “Logically, Turkey needs that. It’s one of the fastest-growing economies of the world, and they need it badly.”

Questions linger about what would become of the core waste leftover from the plant, a perennial controversy whenever a reactor is to be built.

“That is a decision to be done later between the Turkish republic and the Russian Federation,” Mr. Kasumov said.

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