by Burak Akinci
ANKARA, Nov. 30 (Xinhua) -- Türkiye has decided to negotiate with Russia the construction of another nuclear power plant at a time when the West is trying to isolate Moscow, and analysts said that energy-thirsty Türkiye has to be pragmatic to ensure energy security for its industry and citizens.
Turkish Deputy Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar said last week that the negotiations have started for a second four-reactor Russian-built nuclear plant in the northern Black Sea province of Sinop.
"We need at least 16 to 20 reactors ... or we need 12 to 16 reactors in addition to the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) to be a carbon-neutral economy by the turn of the century," Bayraktar told the Atomexpo 2022 conference in Russia.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin came amid anti-Russia measures taken by the United States and the European Union (EU) to isolate Moscow with financial sanctions for its special military operation in Ukraine, experts pointed out.
Murat LeCompte, an Istanbul-based energy expert, told Xinhua that Türkiye, as a NATO member, has historically close relations with the United States and the EU, but it also has traditional ties with Russia, in particular in terms of energy cooperation.
"This is a delicate balance that Türkiye needs to maintain," he said, stressing that it is not in Ankara's interest to sever its growing energy partnership with Russia as Türkiye relies on gas and oil imports.
Negotiations for the construction of a nuclear plant in Sinop began with a Japanese-led consortium, but the agreement was canceled in 2020 due to financial differences.
If the project goes ahead, the Sinop reactor will be the second one constructed by Russia's State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom after the Akkuyu NPP in the Southern Mersin province on the Mediterranean coast.
The Akkuyu plant will have a total capacity of 4,800 megawatts and will also consist of four reactors. The first unit of the 20-billion-dollar project is expected to become operational in 2023.
"To guarantee energy security, Türkiye, with its population of over 85 million, has to maintain a dialogue with various suppliers and engage in energy diplomacy," LeCompte said.
Türkiye has so far avoided calls by the United States and its Western allies to join the anti-Russian sanctions. Meanwhile, Ankara has close relations with both Moscow and Kiev, and helped broker a deal for grain shipments from Ukrainian ports.
Mahmut Aydin, a journalist who is familiar with Türkiye's nuclear projects, echoed LeCompte's remarks by saying that Ankara's energy cooperation with Russia should not be seen as defiance towards the Western alliance.
"Turkish authorities consider this partnership as a must because of growing energy needs and not as a confrontation with the West," he said to Xinhua.
A Turkish source close to the government told Xinhua that Türkiye has prioritized energy security as a result of the current energy crisis, putting nuclear power at the forefront of its energy plans.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced last year that his country will build two more nuclear power plants after the construction of the Akkuyu power plant.
If all the three planned nuclear plants are put into operation in the next two decades, they can account for around a third of Türkiye's electricity needs, said the source who declined to be named. Enditem