ECONOMY

Turkey’s nuclear plant

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A new government is set to revive a project to build energy-hungry Turkey’s first nuclear plant after three attempts in the past three decades and despite legal challenges, officials and analysts say. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who won the July 22 elections, will soon form his new government which is likely to resume efforts to build three nuclear units with a capacity of 5,000 megawatts by 2012 for about $7.5 billion. Turkey hopes the plant will avert a shortfall in energy supplies and also reduce its dependence on oil and natural gas imports, along with coal and hydro power. «The Energy Ministry plans to involve another government body in the project in addition to the Turkish Atomic Energy Board (TAEK) for faster action,» a senior Energy Ministry official told Reuters. He did not name the other institution. The new government needs to first address a veto by President Ahmet Necdet Sezer of the nuclear plant law, prepared by Erdogan’s current government before the July 22 general elections. Sezer objected to the law, saying the treasury should not shoulder the cost of dismantling the plant when it ceased to be operational. Some international companies, including Canada’s SNC-Lavalin International, a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin Group, as well as Turkey’s Sabanaci Holding and Koc Holding have shown interest but were also wary as details have yet to be clarified. «I expect the new government will speed up the project,» said Selahattin Hakman, head of the energy group at Sabanaci Holding. Gov’t keen The government, which has been discussing the project with potential investors, has offered purchasing guarantees under the law to major producers to lure private firms. «The first unit may not come on stream in 2012 but we will prevent further delays in other units,» the official said. Hakman said the government had already delayed the project. «If you start the project now, it will take 10 years to finish the first unit.» But another energy official said the ministry was determined to go ahead with the project even if private firms shy away. «We will not wait for the private sector again. If they do not participate, the government will do it.» Professor Polat Gulkan of the Middle East Technical University said the law should be revised to eliminate bureaucracy and obstacles to fast decision making. «It should also split TAEK into two, i.e. as a regulatory body and an operator. Otherwise we will have clashes of interests in the administration,» he said. Gulkan said Turkey eventually needs to get 10-15 percent of its total power capacity from nuclear energy.