Turkey on March 10 held a foundation-laying ceremony for the third reactor of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in the Mediterranean Mersin.
Russian nuclear conglomerate Rosatom is building four reactors at the site under an intergovernmental agreement struck in 2010. In all, the power plant will have four power units with a total capacity of 4800 MW.
The ceremony was attended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin through a videoconference.
"Our goal is to work with zero emissions while producing energy and add nuclear energy that never harms the environment to our energy basket," Erdoğan said during the inauguration ceremony via a video link.
Erdoğan referred to the plant as a “symbol of Turkish-Russian cooperation" and said: "Realising the Akkuyu nuclear power plant will provide serious contributions to Turkey's energy security and strengthen its economy."
Putin said that the nuclear plant was scheduled to start working in 2023, which coincides with the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Turkish Republic. “A total of four units will be constructed at the Akkuyu site. Difficulties with regards to COVID-19 were not able to prevent us. All measures with regards to the personnel's safety are being taken,” Putin said.
The $20 billion project to build four reactors is one of the largest nuclear new-build projects worldwide and will allow Turkey to join the small club of nations with civil nuclear energy.
Rosatom is under pressure to complete at least the first of the four reactors by 2023, which the firm has called a "challenging" task.
Turkey, which relies on imports for most of its energy needs, wants to reduce its dependence on gas, which mainly comes from Russia. Last year, Erdoğan announced the discovery of a 405 billion cubic meter natural gas field in the Black Sea.