Work began this week on the Russia-funded third reactor at Turkey’s Akkuyu nuclear power plant (NPP) after Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave the go-ahead at a virtual groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, 10 March.
"I am giving you the all-clear, go ahead!" Putin told Rosatom chief executive Alexei Likhachev.
Akkuyu is the world’s biggest nuclear construction site now that three reactors are being built there simultaneously. Work on the NPP began in March 2018, and the concrete base of the first reactor was completed the following March; construction of the second unit began in June 2020.
Rosatom’s Likhachev told the videoconference that the coronavirus pandemic was "gradually receding", allowing work to speed up on the project. Â
"This year, a number of key projects will be performed at the first power unit," he said. "In particular, the reactor pressure vessel will be assembled, the inner containment vessel tiers will be mounted on the second unit, and the melt trap will be installed at the third unit by the end of the year."
The 4.8GW NPP is expected to cost around $20bn. Russian investors are providing the funds, of which 93% will be from Rosatom itself. Likhachev stressed the benefit of this funding to Turkish companies, saying more than 400 were in the construction supply chain, and that these had received $2bn in orders.
Construction is being carried out by a 50/50 Russian-Turkish joint venture.
Likhachev added that, in the context of International Women’s Day, Akkuyu was the world’s only NPP construction project headed by a woman, Rosatom’s Anastasia Zoteyeva.
The project has run into problems since its inception.
In 2015 it appeared doomed after a Turkish F16 shot down a Russian warplane near Turkey’s border with Syria, sparking trade barriers between the two countries.
And in 2018, three Turkish contractors that had partnered with Rosatom withdrew from the project after failing to agree commercial terms for their work (see further reading).
Image: "I am giving you the all-clear, go ahead." Vladimir Putin at Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony (The Kremlin)