Erdogan, Putin hail cooperation at Turkey’s first nuclear power plant
Ankara, Apr 27 (EFE).- The Akkuyu nuclear power plant, built by Russia’s Rosatom consortium in southeastern Turkey, on Thursday received its first shipment of nuclear fuel at a ceremony where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, both participated telematically.
Whether Erdogan would participate in the ceremony had been the subject of intense speculation since he had cancelled campaign events he had been scheduled to attend on Wednesday and Thursday after apparently falling ill on Tuesday.
The Turkish government on Wednesday evening downplayed rumors that Erdogan had been hospitalized or had suffered a heart attack, and on Thursday it said that he was suffering from gastroenteritis and is recovering.
In his virtual remarks at the ceremony, Erdogan emphasized the “big step” constituted by the first shipment of nuclear fuel from Moscow to Ankara so that Turkey can produce nuclear-generated energy within its own territory.
“Akkuyu is the biggest joint investment of Turkey and Russia, valued at $20 billion. It will cover 10 percent of our electricity needs. It’s a strategic investment,” said the Turkish leader.
Putin also emphasized in his telematic remarks that this is “one of the biggest projects in the shared history of Turkey and Russia” and promised to increase bilateral trade, in particular providing Turkey with natural gas.
The Turkish government has said that, after loading the fuel into the first reactor, it will launch a new phase of testing and that the first reactor will begin operating – and producing electricity for public consumption – sometime this year.
The remaining three reactors will be activated at the rate of one per year, after which the plant will have the potential to generate 4.8 megawatts of electricity.
However, a few hours prior to the ceremony, Rosatom director Alexei Likhachev told Russia’s Tass news agency that the center would not begin normal operations until 2025.
“We’re planning to carry out the physical start-up next year and bring the reactor up to a minimum level of controllable power to generate electricity in a stable manner in 2025,” he said.
The Environmental Platform of the Eastern Mediterranean (DACE) has also noted that “the center will not function with the delivery of fuel because its construction has not been finalized.”
“We believe that this is a political maneuver,” said DACE, referring to the numerous acts to inaugurate infrastructure over which Erdogan has presided during his presidential campaign prior to what are anticipated to be very tight presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14.
The organization also criticized the establishment of a nuclear reactor just 250 kilometers (155 miles) from the geological fault where in February an enormous earthquake killed more than 50,000 people and caused extensive damage to infrastructure.
“Building a nuclear center in Turkey, which has five times more seismic faults than the entire European continent, is madness,” DACE said.
Erdogan, meanwhile, emphasized in his remarks at the ceremony that “the European Union generates about 25 percent of its electricity with nuclear energy” and considers this source of energy to be “green.”
“Safety has been our priority in building the center. The complex was not affected by the Feb. 6 earthquakes. That shows the care with which work is being conducted there,” the president said.