The delivery of the first fuel to the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) marks a watershed moment that will allow Türkiye to enter a new phase of economic development, said International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Mariano Grossi Thursday.
The Akkuyu plant built on the Mediterranean coastline on Thursday officially became Türkiye’s first nuclear power facility. It is expected to produce about 10% of Türkiye’s electricity needs once completed.
Grossi’s remarks came during an official ceremony in the southern Mersin province where the Akkuyu was granted nuclear facility status by loading the first nuclear fuel into the plant’s first power unit.
“Occasions like these come few and far between,” Grossi said.
He added that the plant would usher in a new era in which “the names of the country’s figures would be amongst those who have embraced the promise of atoms for peace, the promise of the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”
The $20 billion, 4,800 megawatts (MW) project at Akkuyu entails the construction of four reactors that will allow Türkiye to join the small club of nations with civil nuclear energy.
Grossi said the plant would provide “no less than 10% of clean energy for the country” while contributing to the economic development needed “to feed our economies and bring welfare to our people.”
Nevertheless, he said that nuclear energy also brings responsibility. Therefore, he said the IAEA had been associated with the project by providing technical assistance and helping to forge the Turkish workforce that, alongside its Russian partners, will man the facility.
“The Turkish independent regulator will have all the required elements to apply the safety and security standards,” he said.
The plant is being built by Russia’s state nuclear energy company, Rosatom. Akkuyu will comprise four Russian-designed VVER generation 3+ reactors, with 1,200 megawatts (MW) capacity each.
The three remaining units are due to start operation by the end of 2026, at a rate of one per year, to have a total installed capacity of 4,800 MW ultimately. Once completed, the plant is expected to produce 35 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity annually and will meet about 10% of domestic electricity needs.
Akkuyu is the world’s first NPP project implemented through a build-own-operate model. Under the long-term contract, Rosatom has agreed to provide the power plant’s design, construction, maintenance, operation and decommissioning.
The company holds a 99.2% stake in the project, which marks the most significant investment in Türkiye’s history implemented in a single site.
‘Peaceful nuclear country’
Alexey Likhachev, chief executive of Rosatom, congratulated both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and hailed the joint efforts made for the successful completion of “the world’s largest nuclear construction project.”
According to Likhachev, it marks a significant step in developing nuclear energy ties between Türkiye and Russia. Furthermore, the new status of Akkuyu NPP will make Türkiye “a peaceful nuclear country,” he added.
He stated that the first unit is nearly finished, and equipment installations at the Akkuyu NPP site are nearing completion.
He explained that the reactor body is being installed on the NPP’s second unit, and the core catcher is being installed on the third unit to catch the molten core and prevent it from escaping the containment building in the event of a nuclear meltdown.
Furthermore, work to reinforce the fourth reactor building’s foundation has been completed, Likhachev said.
Over 400 Turkish companies
According to Likhachev, over 400 Turkish companies, forming nearly a cluster, are involved in the implementation of the project, and the accumulated cooperation and experience have set the stage for the realization of other projects.
“We can now say that Türkiye already has its nuclear industry,” he said.
The project led to staff training, and approximately 300 Turkish students are pursuing advanced nuclear education at Russian universities.
As the plant’s lifespan will be no less than 100 years, Likhachev said it could endure for the 200th anniversary of the nation’s founding.
“I am confident that it will contribute significantly to the supply of reliable, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective energy,” Likhachev concluded.