Putin and Erdogan launch Turkey's first nuclear reactor
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin marked the start of the Russian-built plant over videolink from Ankara.
Putin is on an official visit in Turkey – his first foreign trip since winning re-election on March 18 – to meet Erdogan and discuss bilateral ties as well as the Syrian war.
The $20 billion facility, called the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), will be located in the southern province of Mersin. Once fully operational by 2025, the NPP is expected to produce 35 billion kilowatts of electricity, or 10 percent of the country's electricity needs.
The plant is part of Erdogan's 2023 Vision, an ambitious plan to weed Turkey off its dependence on energy imports. Two more nuclear facilities are also in the pipeline – a Japanese facility in Sinop and a US facility in Igneada.
The contract for the Mersin NPP was awarded to Russia in 2010. However, the project has been beset by numerous delays.
Local residents in Mersin have protested against the nuclear facility saying it will negatively impact tourism.
Turkey and Russia have recently put aside their traditional rivalries and differences on regional issues to forge closer ties. Putin and Erdogan have met several times in the past year and regularly speak on the phone.
On Wednesday, they will join Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to discuss Syria. The three countries are sponsoring a series of negotiations to end the seven-year-long war.
Ankara has repeatedly called for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad, a Russian ally. Ankara also launched Operation Olive Branch on January 20, a military campaign against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.
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