Hundreds of workers launched a protest at the construction site of the Akkuyu NPP under construction in Turkiye demanding payment of overdue wages, Sol Haber reported. In addition to the delayed payments, the workers are demanding improvements in working conditions and enhanced safety measures at the construction site due to the challenging work environment.

The protesters, who all work for subcontractor company Prometey Construction, stressed that they would hold negotiations with the authorities in line with their justified demands, but they would also continue their protests until they received their delayed pay. When the gendarmerie arrived, the workers repeated that they would not start working until their salaries were paid and called for resignation of the management.

They issued a press statement supported by the Turkish pro-workers organisation Patronların Ensesindeyiz [we breathe down the necks of the bosses]. The statement said Prometey Construction was associated with deaths, poisoning, poor working conditions and epidemics. It said workers had been exploited by top management, receiving no salaries for three months. Some had been put on unpaid leave and others forced to resign. They were now being threatened with expulsion from the construction site.

The Patronların Ensesindeyiz (PE) statement was supported by representatives of the Communist Party of Turkey, Mersin Metropolitan Mayor candidate Derya Demir, Mesitli Municipality Mayor candidate Selcuk Ersoz and Toroslar Mayor candidate Yusuf Ozer

According to PE, Prometey Construction had delayed payments on the grounds that there was "no money" while at the same time arranging extravagant Christmas entertainment for company executives. Workers who had requested release from their contracts so they could move to another company had been refused.

Akkuyu, Turkiye's first NPP, will eventually host four Russian-designed VVER-1200 reactors. The pouring of first concrete for unit 1 took place in April 2018, for unit 2 in June 2020, for unit 3 in March 2021, and for unit 4 in July 2022. Completion of unit 1 is expected in the third quarter of 2023. Rosatom is constructing the reactors according to a build-own-operate model. To date, the project is fully funded by the Russian side. However, Rosatom has the right to sell a share of up to 49% in the project to other investors.

Under the terms of the Intergovernmental Agreement between Russian and the Turkiye, commissioning of unit 1 should take place within seven years after receiving all necessary permits. As the construction licence for unit 1 was issued in 2018, commissioning is formally due by 2025. However, every effort is being made to ensure that it will be ready in time for Turkiye’s centenary celebrations in 2023.

Much of the construction work is being subcontracted. This had previously led to serious problems and delays when project company Akkuyu Nukleer in July 2022 terminated a deal with Turkish firm IC Içtas and signed an agreement with TSM Enerji to undertake the remaining construction work at the plant. The statement said the contract with TSM would ensure work was completed by previously agreed dates and that workers were paid on time. TSM is owned by three Russia-based companies.

Rosatom had accused IC Ictas of violations affecting the quality and timing of the work. However, IC Içtas launched a legal challenge alleging that the purpose was to reduce the presence of Turkish companies in the management. The dispute was only resolved two months later following high-level talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Akkuyu Nukleer agreed that TSM Enerji would continue construction of unit 1, while IC Içtas would undertake construction of units 2-4. Akkuyu Nukleer said “a decision was made to reconfigure the project, taking into account the specifics of the current stage of work at the construction site”. TSM Enerji remained the main contractor for the construction of unit 1 but would “continue work with the direct participation of many Turkish construction companies already engaged at the Akkuyu NPP construction site”.

The total localisation potential of Akkuyu NPP is $6.5bn and contracts worth $5bn have been signed with local contractors, Akkuyu Nukleer Director General Anastasia Zoteeva said, addressing the recent Atomexpo-2024 forum in Sochi. "About 400 companies are involved in the Akkuyu NPP project, almost half of them are Turkish. These companies supply materials, equipment and services, design, perform various construction and installation works, and transport equipment. Most of the building materials are made in Turkey.”

According to her, the process of supplying equipment and materials does not depend on sanctions. "If suppliers experience difficulties in fulfilling their obligations, explaining this as being due to sanctions, we are ready to move supply chains to other countries. Technologies and equipment for NPPs built within the framework of Russian projects are 98% independent of imports. We fulfil all our obligations under current contracts," she said. Turkish contractors, perform about 40% of the work at the Akkuyu NPP site. "Turkish builders and designers are making a significant contribution to the implementation of the project," she noted.

Zoteeva said that the main stage of construction of the first power unit and related infrastructure is being completed. "We plan to start tests for power generation at the first power unit this year. For this purpose, the main commissioning works must be completed, and all power unit systems installed. We have all the resources for this," she said. She made no reference to the problems with Prometey Construction.

Image: Hundreds of workers at the Akkuyu nuclear power plant site in Turkiye have launched a protest demanding payment of overdue wages