US asks for transparency in Turkish nuclear bids

US asks for transparency in Turkish nuclear bids

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
US asks for transparency in Turkish nuclear bids

This photo shows Akkuyu in southern Turkey, where the country’s first nuclear plant is scheduled to be built. DHA photo

A more transparent and open regulatory environment for the nuclear sector would be more encouraging for American companies that wish to invest in this field, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone said.

“Your energy minister [Taner Yıldız] wants to encourage American firms in the nuclear sector. We think that is great, too. The regulatory environment in Turkey, however, discourages American companies from coming because the nuclear sector is wide open around in the world, but is still closed in Turkey,” Ricciardone told Ankara bureau chiefs of various newspapers late Jan. 25.

Turkey is planning to build three nuclear power plants in the next decade, totaling 4500 MWe, in the provinces of Akkuyu, Mersin and in Sinop. Turkey and Russia signed an agreement for the construction of the first plant, but talks with Japan for the second plant were suspended after the earthquake in Japan last year.

However, U.S. companies do not seem interested in entering this field in Turkey. This is because of poor tender conditions, according to Michael Camunez, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, who called on Turkey to adopt an internationally approved tender process in order to attract American companies, during a visit to Ankara last month. “The regulations should be open and clear. There needs to be a strong and independent regulatory institution with long-term purchase contract,” Camunez told reporters.

“We have a conversation going on about opening the regulatory environment here to encourage American and foreign investment in the nuclear sector,” Ricciardone said. Citing the energy sector as an important field in which Turkish and American companies could cooperate, he said, “If you do not grow in generation capability, transmission and distribution there will be a bottleneck. It will hold you back. We are keenly interested in American companies and investors participating.”

Trade up 35 percent
Last December, a U.S. delegation visited Turkey to examine the opportunities for investment and trade in the renewable energy sector. Ricciardone said the Turkish government wanted to encourage American firms in the nuclear sector.

In the overall economic partnership between the governments and companies of the two countries, Ricciardone drew a more optimistic picture. Bilateral trade is likely to show an increase of more than 35 percent in the year 2011, he said. “We had great success last year. The trade between Turkey and the U.S. when the final figures are in, which we won’t have for the full calendar year, will probably show an increase better than 35 percent, maybe more,” he said.

“President [Barack] Obama, and Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan and President [Abdullah] Gül have agreed that we need to advance our economic relationship to the level of our strategic defense and diplomatic relationship, and that is what we are targeting,” Ricciardone said.

“We want to do even better in 2012. We want to strengthen and exploit the opportunity, to use that framework for bringing the two governments and the two business sectors together.