Turkey has revived its nuclear energy program after four decades of canceled projects. A deal has been brokered with Russia to build Turkey’s first nuclear powerplant on the Mediterranean coast, and talks have started with Japan and France regarding a second nuclear facility on the Black Sea.

In December, Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom signed an agreement to construct four 1,200 MW VVER reactors totalling 4,800 MW in Akkuyu in the province of Mersin on Turkey’s southern coast.

The water-cooled, water-moderated energy reactors will be designed to withstand earthquakes of up to 6.5 on the Richter scale. The licensing process for that project has begun, and construction is likely to begin in 2013. The first unit is expected to come online in 2018, with the other three units to be commissioned in one-year intervals. Rosatom may also set up a facility to make nuclear fuel in Turkey.

Rosatom will build, operate and own the $20-billion nuclear plant, and have full control of the facilities and the right to sell the electricity that it generates. Sergei Kiriyenko, Rosatom’s director general, regards the agreement as a landmark that will shape future reactor deals.

The Russian government converted Rosatom from a ministry into a state corporation in 2007. It has partnered with Iran in the Bushehr nuclear powerplant.

Second Plant in the Works

Following the collapse of talks with South Korea in November regarding construction of a second nuclear facility, Turkey signed an agreement with Japan for cooperation in the area of nuclear energy on December 24.

The memorandum of understanding calls for Japanese firms to build a $20-billion nuclear facility in the province of Sinop on Turkey’s Black Sea coast using the most advanced technologies available. The Sinop plant, which would have four reactors and generating capacity of 5,600 MW, is targeted to start operating in 2019, according to Turkish government officials who expect to reach a deal with Japan by the end of March 2011.

Japan’s Toshiba Corp. has shown an interest in taking part in the construction. In early January, however, Turkey’s energy minister, Taner Yildiz, announced that French energy companies Areva, EDF and GDF Suez have submitted separate proposals for the construction of a nuclear powerplant and that preliminary talks have started with France, although negotiations with Japan have priority.

Turkey aims to generate between 5% to 10% of its energy needs from nuclear technology over the next decade in order to avoid increasing dependence on imported fuels. Currently Turkey imports 70% of its energy.

The Akkuyu plant has a long and checkered history of unsuccessful efforts by companies from around the world to secure a contract. The plant was first granted a site license in 1976, but it got no further despite several contracts. Lack of financing was the main obstacle.

In 2006, the government revived the project, pushing through necessary legislation a year later. A call for bids in 2008 attracted a sole Russian offer. The Russians persevered in the face of legal challenges, securing a deal last May.

Parliament ratified the agreement in July 2010, though the opposition Republican People’s Party has vowed to block the deal through the Constitutional Court.