Turkish Atom. What Has Russia Conceived?

April 05, 2021

In March, 2021 “Rosatom” resumed construction of the nuclear power plant “Akkuyu”, which will be the first nuclear power plant in Turkey. According to the project documentation, the power plant will consist of 4 power units with a total capacity of 4.8GW and will cover up to 10 % of all electricity needs of Turkey. The estimated cost is $ 22 billion. The commissioning of the first power unit is scheduled to be held back-to back with the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey, which will be celebrated in 2023.

The following testifies the political motives for the implementation of the nuclear power plant “Akkuyu” project:

  1. Turkey has recently been demonstrating the geopolitical ambitions in the regions that were formerly a part of the Ottoman Empire. This position, which is united by the concept of “Mavi Vatan” ambiguously affects Ankara’s relations with the partners in the North Atlantic Alliance. At the same time, China, having played on this, is gradually integrating Turkey into “Belt and Road Initiative” project. Therefore, the resumption of construction of the nuclear power plant “Akkuyu” should be perceived as an attempt of Russia to maintain a balance of interests with China, create additional tensions between Turkey and NATO, and strengthen its influence in the region through the export of nuclear technology.
  2. In contrary to the world practice, the Russian Federation, in this case, uses the model “Build-Own-Operate”, namely “Rosatom” through a subsidiary company «AkkuyuNuclear» will be the sole shareholder of the power plant. Thus, the Russian company will directly influence the modes of the electricity production, which means that there is a risk of using uninterrupted supply as a political tool of influence. It should be reminded here, that Moscow repeatedly (1995, 2006 and 2009) resorted to unjustified gas extortion in its relations with Ukraine.
  3. In addition to the nuclear power plant of “Rosatom”, the subsidiary company will also construct a port terminal nearby and will carry out the navigation activities in the south-eastern Mediterranean region. The potential performance of uncharacteristic functions by the operator of the nuclear power plant “Akkuyu”, gives the ground to assume the possible use of such infrastructure for military purposes.
  4. The construction site of the nuclear power plant is located at a distance of 80 km from the coast of Syria and the Republic of Cyprus. The location of the nuclear power plant (high risk facility) in the immediate proximity of the armed conflict zone is likely to encourage “Rosatom” to strengthen its paramilitary security capabilities and, accordingly, to deploy reinforced units of the Russian army.
  5. The engagement of the project is also indicated by dubious cost recovery of nuclear power plant “Akkuyu”, as in the first 15 years of operation, 70% of the generated electricity will be distributed to the network at a fixed price. It is pertinent to note that the model of “preferential gas price” for the political purposes has long been used by Russia in relations with Ukraine.

In addition to geopolitical components, potentially, there will be some technical challenges. First of all, it is the utilization of spent nuclear fuel, as the station is located near the tourist region of Alanya and nature reserves near the Turkish city of Mersin. Secondly, it is safe operation of the nuclear power plants in the seismically active area.

Taking into account the global role of low-carbon energy sources and the climatic aspirations of the world’s leading countries, by 2035 Turkey will have built two more nuclear power plants near the cities of Sinop and Igneada, which are located on the Black Sea coast.

The political rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow has the potential to create new security challenges in the Black Sea region. Therefore, in order to maintain the balance of relations it should be worthwhile to consider initiating the cooperation between Turkey and Ukraine in the nuclear-industrial complex, for instance, in the issues of joint uranium ore mining and concentrate production for non-Russian power plants. For this reason, under such conditions, any weakening of Ukraine’s nuclear industry, in particular due to the artificial loss of liquidity in the energy market, should be perceived as one of the elements of the Russian strategy described above.

Maksym Bielawski

Leading Expert, Energy Programmes

Born in 1986 in Zhytomyr oblast


Zhytomyr State Technological University (2008)

Ph.D in Technical Science (2010)

Ivano-Frankivsk National Technical University of Oil and Gas (2012)

Author of 17 patents and 100 scientific works

Work Experience:

2008 – 2011 — Operator of Gas Infrastructure Units, Controller of Gas Transmission System in Rivne Division of PJSC "Ukrtransgas"

2011 – 2017 — Leading Engineer, Deputy Head of Press-Service, Head of Public Relation Department of PJSC "Ukrtransgas"

2017 – 2018 — HR Director of PJSC "Maine Gas Pipelines of Ukraine", Advisor to the Minister of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine

2021 — Director of Integrated Communications of NJSC "Naftogaz of Ukraine"