Turkey thirsts for nuclear energy – And not only that

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By Costas Raptis

Akkuyu is not enough. Immediately after the completion of its first nuclear power plant, Turkey will focus on building a second and a third. This was announced on Wednesday by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in a speech at the inauguration of the new building of his country’s energy regulator.

The nuclear power plant built by the Russian Rosatom group in Akkuyu, Mersin Province, is scheduled to be commissioned in May of the “significant” year 2023 (one hundred years since the founding of the Turkish Republic) and has a capacity of 4,800 MW in fully operational, covering 10% of the neighbor’s energy consumption.

With a helping hand to Putin

The construction of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant began in 2018, based on a Russian-Turkish agreement signed in 2010, and is estimated to be 60-80 years old. The project has a total cost of $ 22 billion and will employ 15,000 people at the peak of construction work, as well as 4,000 on a regular basis after its launch. Last March, the presidents of Turkey, Tayyip Erdogan, and Russia, Vladimir Putin, inaugurated the construction of the third of the four Akkuyu reactors, the last of which will be commissioned in 2016.

On that occasion, the Kremlin resident stressed that his country is ready to undertake other similar projects – such as the ones now being announced by Erdogan as a general direction.

“Alarm signal”

The strongman from Ankara appeared to be a big fan of nuclear energy, describing each opponent as an opponent of Turkey’s prosperity and independence, and recalling that there are currently a total of 443 nuclear power plants in more than 30 countries. In addition, Tayyip Erdogan presented his country’s nuclear energy program as its contribution to the international issue of combating climate change (in parallel with securing, by 2027, 10,000 MW of solar and wind energy, as the official target).

And, of course, the Turkish leader reiterated that his country, encouraged by the discovery of a 135 billion cubic meter gas field in the Black Sea, will start mining in 2023 and will exploit corresponding sources of hydrocarbons, including whenever they arise.

The launch of the Akkuyu, he added, would serve as a wake-up call after decades of delays in nuclear power, as he noted that energy consumption in Turkey had risen by only 8% in the last year and, according to studies, demand will continue to grow at an average rate of 3.5% per year in the coming years.

Need for detoxification

Tayyip Erdogan has reason to insist on the issue, as energy dependence is the Achilles heel of the Turkish economy, while the needs are certainly going to multiply given the demographic dynamics. The “paradox” of the increase in the Turkish current account deficit is well known, in a manner commensurate with the increase in Turkish exports, as the Turkish production base generates ever-increasing needs for energy and mechanical equipment that it cannot meet. In this context, the National Energy and Mining Policy, announced in 2017, sets the goal of using more energy from domestic and renewable sources.

Target weapons?

But nuclear power helps speed up energy recovery steps. That is why Tayyip Erdogan is so willing to ignore the objections of those who stand on the environmental risks of building nuclear power plants, given the seismicity of Turkey, which after the accident in Fukushima, Japan in 2011 can not be lightly ignored.

The Turkish leader may be tempted by other possibilities of nuclear energy. Everyone remembers that in a speech in 2019 on the centenary of the Kemalist liberation movement, Erdogan denounced the fact that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty prohibits the acquisition of nuclear arsenals in countries like his own, restricting this right to only one. small number of major powers or in states like Israel that have simply not signed it.

Inflationary nightmare in the midst of the pound falling

The ambitious energy planning of the rulers in the neighbor refers to the more or less distant future. The present, however, is marked by the current energy crisis, which exacerbates some of Turkey’s economic woes.

In a country that imports 93% of its oil needs and 98% of its natural gas needs, the current situation on international markets is destined to have a devastating impact. Especially since inflation is already “running” at 20%, exceeding the interest rates that Erdogan’s policy insists on squeezing. As if the inflationary pressures created by the devaluation of the pound by 7% in the last month were not enough.

In October alone, the price of gasoline quadrupled, leading to protests by taxi drivers, while the price of gas rose by 46.8% for power stations and by 48.4% for industry, without have still been passed on to households.

Difficult negotiations

In 2019, before the pandemic, Turkey’s energy import costs were $ 41 billion, or 20% of total imports, with gas ($ 12 billion) running at 32.3% in households, by 28.7% in power plants (which provide 25.6% of the total energy mix) and by 26.7% in industry.

The tightness in the oil market (where the increase in production received by OPEC + falls by 100,000 barrels per day of the observed increase in demand, while prices are expected according to Goldman Sachs to exceed $ 90 per barrel by the turn of the year) forces Turkey to focus more on natural gas, but where the sources are specific: Russia and Azerbaijan. The latter is already facilitating with the provision of additional quantity, however the negotiations with Gazprom are expected to be tough. And the last thing Erdogan’s country would want is to be left with unmet needs that would lead it to the unpredictable spot market.

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Source From: Capital

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