Turkey to finalise nuclear deal by December, minister says

Turkey expects to finish talks with Russia’s Atomstroiexport by next month on building its first nuclear power plant and will accelerate plans to construct more, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said on Wednesday.

Turkey has repeatedly pushed back a deadline to finish the tender, held in September 2008, at which Atomstroiexport and its partners Inter RAO and Turkey’s Park Teknik were the only bidders. It wants the group to lower the price at which it will sell the government electricity.

“Talks on the nuclear power station are continuing, but are not at the point where I can share details with the public,” Yıldız told an energy conference. “We want to complete it by the end of November or … December.”

Turkey is reviewing Atomstroiexport’s revised bid. The new price is $0.134-$0.154 per kilowatt hour, 27 percent lower than its original bid but still about double current rates.

The government has guaranteed 15 years of power purchases to encourage investment in the plant, but any builder will still charge a premium to recoup as much as $8 billion in costs.

The site of the first plant is near the town of Akkuyu in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey then wants to build at least two more plants, with potential sites near the city of Sinop on the Black Sea, as it seeks to cover a looming shortfall in electricity as well as cut dependence on foreign energy imports.

The government sees atomic power meeting 20 percent of Turkey’s power needs in 20 years.

“In 2010 … we have plans for both Akkuyu and Sinop, and I can easily say that we have plans for other places after those,” Yıldız said. “Even if we play with the model or the structure, we will most definitely break more ground on this in 2010.”

Activists and some opposition parties warn that a nuclear-power industry in Turkey, which is criss-crossed by geological faultlines, poses a threat to the environment.

Turkey has cancelled four previous attempts to build a nuclear plant, with plans stretching back to the late 1960s, due to the high cost and environmental concerns.

Natural gas, of which Turkey has few reserves of its own, fires half of its power plants. It imports most of that fuel from Russia, and opponents to last year’s nuclear tender have said awarding the contract to a Russian firm does not diversify its energy sources enough.

Yıldız also said his ministry was still drawing up legislation to develop more renewable energy sources and that parliament may vote on it in four months.

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