ANKARA – Japan and Turkey have signed a long-awaited deal to build a sprawling nuclear power plant on the country’s Black Sea coast, a milestone for the Japanese nuclear industry as it recovers from the Fukushima catastrophe.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the $22 billion contract agreed Friday in the capital, Ankara, as a “very important step” that would transform bilateral ties with Japan into a “strategic partnership.”
A Japanese-French consortium won the lucrative deal to build Turkey’s second nuclear plant, notching up Japan’s first successful bid on an overseas atomic energy project since the March 11, 2011, quake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima No. 1 plant, triggering the world’s worst nuclear disaster in a generation.
Turkey, which like Japan is highly prone to powerful earthquakes, weathered criticism for teaming up with Tokyo in light of the triple-meltdown crisis, but “despite that, we have taken this step,” Erdogan said.
“What happened at Fukushima upset all of us. But these things can happen. Life goes on. Successful steps are being taken now with the use of improved technology,” he added.
The agreement over the envisioned facility in the port city of Sinop, northern Turkey, came a day after Japan signed a nuclear cooperation accord with the United Arab Emirates.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Turkey as part of a broader tour of the Middle East and Russia.
Abe and Erdogan also signed a deal covering the peaceful use of atomic energy, aiming to reassure parties tracking the international standoff between the West and Iran, which neighbors Turkey, over its suspected nuclear arms program.
The winning consortium includes Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and major trading house Itochu Corp., as well as French energy company GDF-Suez SA. A Turkish firm that remains to be determined will also participate.
MHI is to supply the Sinop plant’s reactors in conjunction with French industrial conglomerate Areva SA.
The facility is to comprise four reactors with a combined output of 4,800 megawatts. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2017, with the first reactor to commence operations by 2023.
Turkey currently relies heavily on gas and oil imports from Russia and Iran, and plans to build a total of three atomic power plants to cut its dependence on overseas supplies. In 2010, it reached a deal with Russia to build the first of these power stations at Akkuyu, southern Turkey.
After Friday’s signing ceremony, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz told reporters that Tokyo is also looking to land Ankara’s third nuclear project.
“They made their interest clear, but we’ve not made any promise,” Yildiz said, although he added that Turkish and Japanese engineers will work together to find a location for the third atomic plant.