Turkey in talks with US to buy small nuclear reactors, weaning itself off coal

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Turkey’s government and private companies are in talks with the US for purchases of small nuclear reactors, as the country looks to wean itself off coal.

“There is a serious interest in nuclear as a way to replace coal-fired power plants,” Justin Friedman, senior advisor for commercial competitiveness in nuclear energy at the US State Department, said in an interview with Bloomberg on Tuesday in Ankara.

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There is room to purchase as many as 35 small modular reactors, known as SMRs, Friedman said, citing Turkish aspirations for 20 gigawatts of electricity generation capacity from nuclear by 2050.

“Now the question is how do we work together government-to-government to open the door to the business-to-business cooperation,” he said.

US manufacturers of SMRs include NuScale Power Corp. and the Bill Gates-backed TerraPower LLC. SMRs typically generate a hundred megawatts or slightly more — making them roughly a tenth the size of conventional reactors — and can be built in series, like components in a factory, rather than as the usual bespoke projects.

Investment on this scale would cost billions of dollars. It’s unclear how the financing would work should the talks result in a commercial deal.

Turkey’s energy ministry declined to comment.

The talks with the US come as Russian state company Rosatom nears completion of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in southern Turkey. The government is also negotiating a second power plant with Rosatom that may be built in Sinop on the Black Sea coast.

Turkey has 68 coal-fired power stations, which met about a third of its electricity needs last year, according to the energy ministry. The country aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2053.

Read more: Turkey launches construction of first nuclear power plant

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