New energy between Cold War foes Turkey, Russia
“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.”
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 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.