Turkey has ratified an agreement with China on use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, the Official Gazette (Resmi Gazete) reported 25 August.

The agreement signed in Beijing between Turkey and China in 2012, has been ratified by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after receiving parliamentary approval.

It was earlier reported that China is interested in constructing Turkey’s third NPP and in November 2014, Turkey signed an agreement of exclusivity with the China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) for the third nuclear plant.

Turkey’s first NPP is being built by Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom  in Akkuyu province near the city of Mersin on the Mediterranean coast.  The intergovernmental agreement between Russia and Turkey on cooperation in the fields of construction and operation of the country's first nuclear power plant Akkuyu in southern Turkey was signed in 2010 and the plant is scheduled for completion in 2020. The second NPP will be built in Sinop province on the Black Sea coast by a Japanese-French consortium. The agreement on the Sinop plant was signed between Turkey and Japan in 2013 and it is due for completion in 2023.

In March, Turkey’s energy minister Berat Albayrak went to China, where, in addition to official talks, he also visited the Nuclear Engineering Research and Design Institute in Shanghai and a third generation nuclear power plant built by SNPTC in Weihai. Albayrak returned to China in June to attend the G20 Energy Ministers’ Meeting in Beijing. On the sidelines of the summit, a memorandum of understanding was signed by Turkey’s Energy Ministry and China’s National Energy Administration on joint development of nuclear technologies.

In early August, China’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Zhang Ming, came to Turkey. His official business was expression of solidarity with Turkey’s elected government after the failed coup attempt but he also visited Energy Minister Albayrak’s office. Just two weeks after Zhang’s visit, Turkey’s parliament ratified the 2012 nuclear cooperation agreement with China.

The bidding process for Turkey’s third nuclear plant is expected to be opened in 2017, with China’s SNPTC currently favourite to win the contract. The third NPP, which will incorporate four nuclear reactors with a total installed capacity of 5,000MWe, is estimated to  $22-25bn.

The agreement that was signed in 2012 and recently ratified is a detailed blueprint for a comprehensive partnership, incorporating: research and development in nuclear energy; design, construction, operation, refurbishment, modernisation, testing and decommissioning of NPPs; exploration and mining of nuclear minerals; processing and disposal of radioactive waste; joint development of innovative reactor- and fuel-related technologies; nuclear safety; training of nuclear engineers and qualified personnel; and the supply of nuclear materials.

The Chinese option also entails joint development with the US as the third generation nuclear technology offered by SNPTC is a product of collaboration with the US-based Westinghouse Electric Company, and the 2014 agreement specifies that SNPTC and Westinghouse agree to cooperate in the Turkish project, if their bid is successful.

This tripartite arrangement provides not only technological edge for the project, but also significant political clout. The problems experienced with the missile defense system deal, which Turkey had awarded to a Chinese company only to cancel it afterward due to objections from NATO partners, are not likely to be repeated this time as the Chinese are making efforts to enter the Turkish market together with their American partners.

Meanwhile work on Turkey’s first NPP is speeding up, following the thaw in relations between Turkey and Russia in the wake of the recent coup attempt. Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekchi said on 31 August that Russia and Turkey may create an investment fund for the Akkuyu NPP which could also be used to finance other joint projects. The Akkuyu project is for four VVER-1200 units estimated to cost $20bn.