On Thursday, Putin and Erdogan took part virtually in a ceremony inaugurating the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, which is Turkey’s first nuclear power plant built by Russia’s state nuclear energy company Rosatom.
The ceremony, during which Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also made some remarks, saw first loading of nuclear fuel into the first power unit at the site in Turkey’s southern Mersin province.
“This is a flagship project. It brings both mutual economic benefits and, of course, helps to strengthen the multi-faceted partnership between our two states,” Putin said via a video-link, describing Akkuyu as “the largest nuclear construction project in the world.”
The Russian leader also noted that the new plant would mean that Turkey would import less Russian natural gas in the future.
“But Turkey will enjoy the advantage of a country that has its own nuclear energy, and nuclear energy, as you know, is one of the cheapest,” Putin stated.
Erdogan, for his part, tanked his Russian counterpart for his support on Akkuyu, adding that Ankara “will take steps to build a second and a third nuclear power plant in Turkey as soon as possible.”
“With the delivery of nuclear fuels by air and sea to our power plant, Akkuyu has now gained the status of a nuclear plant,” the Turkish leader further said during his virtual address to the first nuclear fuel delivery ceremony.
Although Turkey is a member of the US-led NATO, Erdogan has managed to maintain close relations with Putin despite the current war in Ukraine.
The Turkish leader could also broker, along the United Nations, a deal last year that allowed the resumption of Ukrainian grain exports from Black Sea ports.
According to a statement by Turkey’s presidential office, Erdogan held a phone call with Putin prior to the inauguration ceremony, discussing the situation in Ukraine and the Black Sea grain deal.
The $20-billion, 4,800-megawatt project to build four reactors in Akkuyu town will add Turkey to the small club of nations with civil nuclear energy.
“We plan to complete the physical launch [of the plant] next year … in order to be able to produce electricity on a steady basis from 2025, as we agreed,” said Andrei Likhachev, head of Rosatom, during the ceremony.
An intergovernmental agreement for the Akkuyu nuclear power plant was signed between Ankara and Moscow in May 2010, said Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency in a report, adding that the plant’s groundbreaking ceremony was held on April 3, 2018, after which construction started on the first unit.