Energy and Natural Resources Minister Taner Yıldız says Turkey must turn to nuclear power to meet its growing energy needs given its rapid economic expansion.
“Nuclear energy is of utmost importance for Turkey in terms of ensuring energy security and reducing dependence on energy imports (thereby also cutting the current account deficit),” the minister wrote in the May-June issue of the Turkish Review, a bimonthly magazine published by Feza Gazetecilik A.Ş., which also owns the Zaman and Today's Zaman dailies as well as the Aksiyon weekly and the Cihan news agency. “In this sense, nuclear plants are imperative for Turkey,” he added.
As part of its centennial targets, the government aims to have three nuclear power plants functioning by 2023, the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the modern republic. A $20 billion deal has already been finalized with Russia's Atomstroyexport for the construction of Turkey's first nuclear plant in the southern town of Akkuyu, and negotiations are set to begin with China for a second plant to be constructed in the northern province of Sinop. A memorandum of understanding with the Japanese had previously been signed, but plans were shelved following the twin disasters -- a powerful quake and tsunami -- that hit Japan more than a year ago, leading to persistent radiation leakage from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Japan's experience led many countries, including Germany, to scrap plans for increasing reliance on nuclear energy, or even to develop total exit plans, but it failed to dampen Turkey's enthusiasm for its ongoing projects. Yıldız offers an explanation as to why: “The nuclear power plants to be constructed in Akkuyu and Sinop are estimated to generate 80 billion kWh of electricity annually. In order to obtain the same amount of electricity from a natural gas plant, 16 billion cubic meters of gas would be needed annually, imported at a current cost of $7.2 billion. For the price of three years of this natural gas import a four-unit nuclear power plant can be established in Akkuyu,” he writes.
Turkey's demand for electricity grows each year by an average of nearly 8 percent. “Turkey has to include nuclear in its energy portfolio,” Yıldız states.
In his four-page article for the magazine Yıldız also elaborates on Turkey's strengthening position as an energy transfer corridor between energy producing nations to the east and south and energy-thirsty developed nations in the west and north. “Turkey is set to play a crucial role in supplying gas to Europe, where energy demand continues to grow, via the Southern Gas Corridor. Our constructive strategies for improving the east-west and north-south energy corridors are realized within the framework of this project and others,” he says. Naming several such projects -- including the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, Nabucco and the Trans-Anatolia Gas Pipeline (TANAP) -- the minister writes, “All these projects put Turkey in a highly strategic position in new global geopolitics, both in terms of meeting domestic energy demands and in ensuring Europe's energy security.”
Other subjects touched upon in the article are energy efficiency and alternative energy sources, as well as the Turkey's potential hydrocarbon reserves. Yıldız suggests Turkey today “has the capacity to invest more in the exploitation of its resources.” The money allocated to the exploration and extraction of oil and natural gas across Turkey by the Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) rose to $823 million last year from $390 million a year earlier. These efforts, however, have so far not yielded the desired outcome of the discovery of a vast resource bank.