[Updates: 01/23/08 Bush endorses nuclear deal with Turkey, Update 02/08/08 tender release set for 02/21/08, tender delayed 02/21/08. tender deadline set for September 2008] 03/24/08]
Turkey stepped into the nuclear energy spotlight last week with an announcement that it will guarantee electricity purchases for 15 years to attract investment in nuclear power stations it plans to build, Energy Minister Hilmi Guler said at a nuclear-energy conference in Istanbul. The guarantee creates a bridge between the government's intent and the private sector's capabilities. It suggests that the provision of a guarantee to purchase the electricity for 15 years sets up the plant as a "merchant" with all of the investor risk assigned to the builders.
The issue of who will buy electricity from a nuclear plant once it is built is central to attracting investors and vendors. Companies that may bid next month to build Turkey's first nuclear power station want the guarantees. Turkey wants to begin building its first nuclear power station to cut its reliance on foreign fuel and help it meet electricity demand that's growing about 8% a year.
Bloomberg reports the government is preparing two sites for the first power stations, one near the Black Sea town of Sinop and another at Akkuyu on the Mediterranean coast, Guler also said. A third site is also planned for the three stations Turkey plans by 2013.
The government initially targets 5,000 megawatts of nuclear power that will require $10 billion in investment. Turkey, which has reserves of uranium, could become a center for the production of nuclear fuel from enriched uranium. However, Turkey is not a major supplier of uranium on world markets.
Foreign companies including General Electric Co. and Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg AG, Germany's third-largest utility, have expressed interest in building Turkish nuclear power stations.
According to World Nuclear News last November Turkey's parliament approved a bill for the construction of nuclear power plants in the country. The bill allows the government to launch tenders for the construction of nuclear power plants, establish a state company to run the plants, and to allocate shares to private sector companies.
Turkey to join GNEP?The Turkish press reported on Jan 19th that nation will sign on to the global nuclear fuel program under GNEP. Turkey said it is considering becoming a full member.
“We are not negative on that. But we endorse remaining as an active observer for some more time,” Energy Minister Hilmi Güler told reporters in Istanbul. Turkey will probably join the GNEP this year in September 2008 by signing the Statement of Principles, a non-binding document that includes the doctrine of the 19-member group.
Güler participated in the first ministerial meeting of the GNEP in Vienna in September 2007 and continued to talk about Turkey's participation during his recent meeting with his U.S. counterpart Samuel Bodman in Washington. The Energy Dept. sent a high level team to Turkey this week for talks. Sec. Bodman was traveling in the Mideast last week, but Turkey wasn't a planned stop on his trip.US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy Ed McGinnis, representing the GNEP program, held talks in Ankara with Turkish officials including Energy Minister Hilmi Güler according to US Embassy Press Attaché Kathryn Schalow.
A U.S. government embassy official speaking to a group of reporters said Turkey has been widely informed on the subject and “now the decision is up to Turkey.” “We had a very positive meeting,” the official added. The U.S official dismissed claims that the GNEP would be used as an international tool against Iran's nuclear program. “The GNEP is not to contain any country,” the official said. Iran's controversial nuclear program created a row between the international community and Tehran, which is closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
There were reports that Turkey would become an uranium enrichment center in the region, as a formula to stop Iran from enriching its own uranium. “I am unaware of such a thing,” the U.S. official said.
Those attending the joint meeting last week included Akira Omoto, director of the Nuclear Division of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Peter B. Lyons, commissioner of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission as well as representatives of international companies such as Enerji Baden, General Electric and AECL. Energy advisor to the president of Turkey, Volkan Ediger, prominent energy security analyst, Faruk Demir, Sabanci Holding Energy Group Chairman Selahattin Hakman, Zorlu Holding Energy Group Chairman Murat Sungur Bursa, CinerGroup energy advisor, Nevzat Sahin, and Çalik Holding CEO Ahmet Çalik.
Wire service reports and a formal statement from the White House indicate President George W. Bush gave a green light to a civilian nuclear cooperation deal with Turkey, saying that private-sector proliferation worries have been addressed, the White House said this week.
Bush sent the US Congress a July 2000 agreement, signed by then-US president Bill Clinton, that would clear the way for transfers of nuclear know-how from U.S. firms to Turkey's planned civilian atomic sector. Turkey is a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and insists it has purely peaceful intentions.
The agreement permits the transfer of technology, material, equipment. including reactor, and components for nuclear research and nuclear power production. The deal stalled shortly after being signed in July 2000 because US agencies received "information implicating Turkish private entities" in activities directly relating to nuclear proliferation. "The pertinent issues have been sufficiently resolved," it said. Portions of the government's justification for the assessment remain classified according to the White House statement.
Is the White House right?
On Jan 6 the Times of London published a potentially explosive report that alleged corrupt U.S. government officials allowed Pakistan and other states to steal nuclear weapons secrets during the past six years. According to the Times, Sibel Edmonds, a 37-year-old former Turkish language translator for the FBI, charges Turkish government officials and businessmen often acted as conduits or brokers for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s spy agency.
One of Edmonds’s main roles in the FBI was to translate thousands of hours of conversations by Turkish diplomatic and political targets that had been covertly recorded by the agency. The Times reports Edmonds gave evidence to closed sessions of Congress, but that her testimony remains secret.
The article lacks essential elements corroborating her story, such as the tapes of the alleged conversations Edmonds says she translated, and the name of the allegedly corrupt U.S. diplomat. The Times wrote that it received conflicting information from sources said to know about the allegations. There's a enormous amount of material about Edmonds on the Internet, but so far the Times is the only major newspaper willing to carry her story.
More likely if the story does get ink in the U.S, it will be used by congressional critics of the deal. Even if the black market nuclear network is gone, the Times article is not good news for the Bush Administration's efforts to promote nuclear technology exchanges with Turkey.
Turkish Daily News -- Turkey will only allow previously tested models of nuclear plants to be built on its territory, the energy minister said at a press conference. We will not bring in models that are yet to be tested, and neither will we choose outdated technology, Hilmi Güler said. The Energy Ministry will launch a tender for a nuclear plant Feb. 21. The main goal is to provide private investment for the construction of the nuclear power plant. We want to minimize its costs for people, Güler said.
The Herald Tribune in Paris reports that Turkey has delayed its release of a tender for three new nuclear power plants. The reasons are reported to be internal contracting issues, but in a deal of this size more likely the reason is proponents of various bidders have tied the process up in knots.
Reuters reports that Turkey has set a tender date for September 2008.
Turkey has set a deadline of Sept. 24 for bids in a tender to build the country's first nuclear power station.
The power station will be built at Akkuyu near Mersin on the country's Mediterranean coast, the Official Gazette said.
It said the plant will have a capacity of 4,000 megawatts, plus or minus 25 percent.