The Turkish private sector has shown great interest in developing small modular reactors (SMR) that could be used to replace carbon-emitting coal power plants, according to Justin Friedman, a senior advisor at the U.S. State Department.
Compared to large-scale nuclear power plants, SMRs are easier to operate and construct, while their modular quality makes their manufacturing time quicker and cheaper.
“SMRs are small, usually between 70 to 300 megawatts in capacity, which makes it possible to place multiple reactors on an existing site and use them to substitute for coal,” Friedman, a senior advisor for commercial competitiveness in nuclear energy at the State Department, told Anadolu Agency (AA).
Friedman this week said the Turkish government and private companies were in talks with the U.S. for purchases of SMRs, as the country looks to wean itself off coal.
“There is a serious interest in nuclear energy as a way to replace coal-fired power plants,” he told Bloomberg News.
Friedman said that purchase of as many as 35 SMRs is possible as Türkiye wants to generate 20 gigawatts of electricity from nuclear energy by 2050.
There are two routes for cooperation between the U.S. and Türkiye in the field of small-scale nuclear energy, government-to-government and business-to-business, he told AA.
Having met with government officials from the Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Energy during his visit to Türkiye, Friedman voiced the excitement that the Turkish private sector has shown.
Among the companies he met with, some of them own coal-fired power plants and want to make the switch to a cleaner and more stable source, he said.
If a company decides to install SMRs on a coal power plant, Friedman said it can use the electric grid connections already in place, reduce its investment and retain the existing personnel.
“People who work in a coal-fired power plant, for the most part, can apply those same skills in the coal plant to a nuclear plant,” he added.
He emphasized that switching from a coal-fired power station to SMR would result in “going from carbon emissions, and all the other things that coal emits when it’s burned, to zero emissions.”
Friedman said the next step is to determine how U.S. companies can partner with Turkish companies.
Meanwhile, Türkiye’s first nuclear plant, Akkuyu, is being built by the Russian state-owned company Rosatom and is nearing completion in southern Türkiye.
Türkiye is also negotiating a second power plant with Rosatom that may be built in Sinop on the Black Sea coast.
Türkiye has 68 coal-fired power stations, which met about a third of the country’s electricity needs last year, according to the Energy Ministry. Türkiye aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2053.
Türkiye also has an opportunity as a country, Friedman said, further adding that Turkish companies can expand the country’s global reach by utilizing “its large-scale construction experience.”
“I’m aware that there are a couple of Turkish companies that are looking at becoming partners and participating in some of the leading projects including in Romania where the first SMR will be deployed outside of the U.S.,” Friedman said.
Highlighting many opportunities for Turkish companies in the modular nuclear field, he said, “There are a number of Turkish companies that have the technical skills to participate in the supply chain to build the parts within the reactor.”
Those companies need to “certify that they can build nuclear levels of quality,” he said.
Friedman noted that there are many “well-equipped Turkish companies with resources that can be partners in investing in projects around the world.”
Friedman said SMRs could also provide clean electricity and heat for use in industrial activities.