On his first foreign trip after being elected to a fourth presidential term on March 18, Vladimir Putin was on a two-day visit to Turkey last week to break ground for the construction of a new energy production facility. Putin and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended a ceremony on April 3 to commemorate a joint project for the first power unit of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant.
The $22 billion project, financed by Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation, will be the first nuclear power plant built in Turkey. The intergovernmental cooperation agreement signed between the Russian and Turkish heads of state in 2010 provides Russia with a 51 percent stake in the project, with the remaining shares going to Turkey.
It is expected that the facility will have a service life of 60 years, with the possibility of prolonging it for another two decades.
"The most advanced engineering solutions, economically effective and reliable technologies, such technologies that we apply in Russia, will be used in the construction of the plant," said Putin.
The Akkuyu project will be the first to use the BOO (Build-Own-Operate) co-investment model, meaning that Russia is responsible for not only helping build the plant but the overall safety of the facility once it is up and running.
The plant will consist of four 1,200 megawatt generating pressurized water reactor units located near the port of Mersin, on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. The first unit is expected to be put into operation in five years.
"About 10,000 people will be employed while the Akkuyu nuclear power plant’s construction is most intensive, and about 3,500 jobs will be provided during operation. The majority will consist of Turkish citizens," said Turkey’s Energy and Natural Resources Ministry Undersecretary Fatih Dönmez, according to the Daily Sabah newspaper.
Along with thousands of jobs for Turks, the project opens up opportunities for Turkish suppliers as well, since about 35 and 40 percent of all construction work, at the tune of anywhere between six and eight billion U.S. dollars, is expected to be carried out. More than 350 Turkish companies have already applied to be on the list of potential suppliers, and some of them have received initial orders for infrastructure.
The effects of the project go beyond energy production, according to the director of the International Institute of the Newest States, Alexei Martynov.
“It (Akkuyu NPP) is not only an economically viable economic project for Russia and Turkey. This is an important political project to expand and deepen the already dynamically developing Russian-Turkish relations,” Martynov told Radio Sputnik.
Cooperation between Moscow and Ankara has overcome a lot of bad feelings since November 2015, when the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian warplane. Following that incident, relations between the two sides spiraled downward very quickly.
Yet they have come a long way since then: Along with the Akkuyu project, the two countries are also building the TurkStream offshore gas pipeline that will supply Russian natural gas to Europe through Turkey. Russia will be suppling Turkey – a member of NATO – with its S-400 missile system, thanks to a deal signed in December.
Warming relations between Russia and Turkey come at a time when Russia’s relations with the west are in the doldrums, following the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the U.K. on March 4. Since then, the U.K., U.S. Canada and a host of European states kicked out Russian diplomats, with Moscow responding in kind.
Russia and Turkey together with Iran have teamed up to achieve a ceasefire in Syria, which is peppered with opposition forces and extremist groups that have been fighting a war against President Bashar Al Assad since March 2011.
"We are also in close cooperation with Russia to end as soon as possible the terror threat and clashes in Syria," said Erdogan.