Turkey and China sign nuclear agreement

By bne IntelliNews April 10, 2012

bne -

Turkey and China signed nuclear energy and investment deals during an official visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Beijing on April 9. The success of the first visit by a Turkish prime minister to China in 27 years illustrates the growing relationship between the two countries.

Wen and Erdogan signed six agreements, including two agreements on cooperation in nuclear energy. A declaration of intent to promote and protect investment between the two countries and deals in publishing and broadcasting were also inked, as well as a promise to build a pair of cultural center on one another's soil.

Details of the nuclear agreements were not offered. One is a letter of intent between China's National Energy Administration and the Turkish Energy Ministry for further nuclear cooperation, reports Hurriyet. The second is entitled a "Cooperation Agreement on the Peaceful Use of Nuclear Power."

Turkey, which does not currently have nuclear power capacity on its soil, has been hunting a partner for the second of three planned plants it aims to build by 2023, after signing up with Russia's Rosatom to build the first at Akkuyu, near the Mediterranean coast. The second plant will be in the province of Sinop on the Black Sea. Russia, Japan and South Korea are vying with China for the contract to build it, but the Financial Times reported on April 8 that Beijing has leapt into the lead because it is not demanding guarantees from Ankara.

Turkey originally signed up with Japan to build the project in 2010, but the deal was suspended in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Intense negotiations were also held with South Korea, but fell apart because of disagreements on state guarantees in particular. "They don't have a financing problem. If they agree they will build it," an unnamed Turkish energy official told the newspaper.

China National Nuclear Corporation and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation have been pushing their credentials as global nuclear suppliers, although Pakistan is the only overseas state to have contracted China to build a plant. Although China is the world's biggest builder of new nuclear reactors, there is still uncertainty over the relative newcomer's technology, particularly since the Fukushima disaster.

Russia, with an extremely long nuclear track record, has also been pushing its role as a global provider. Rosatom is set to start building Turkey's first NPP in 2013. The government will decide on a tender for the second nuclear power plant in two months, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yıldız said on April 8.

Erdogan's visit promises to boost ties between Turkey and China despite some differences. In particular, relations hit turbulence in 2009 after Erdogan criticized China for its policy in Xinjiang province. The region's Muslim Uyghur ethnic group have agitated for increased cultural rights for decades, and shares linguistic and cultural links with Turks. Ankara has said it plans to set up an industrial zone in the province. However, following a visit by Wen to Turkey a year later, the countries improved ties and set a target for trade to increase to $50bn by 2015. Trade peaked at $18.7 bn in 2011.

Reporting on Erdogan's three-day official visit, China's state media highlighted its importance for relations, with one suggesting it is proof that Turkey has shifted its focus from the West to the East. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was careful to offer Turkey platitudes, calling it an emerging power and stressing that China attaches great importance to Turkey's influence both regionally and globally. Wen highlighted the importance of boosting coordination in the face of uncertainty in the Middle East and North Africa and the unstable world economy.

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