Russia continues to export its atomic energy expertise despite sanctions

This week Presidents Putin and Erdogan appeared in a televised video link to mark the first delivery of fuel to a nuclear power plant being built by a subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned nuclear power company in southern Turkey.

The ceremony underlined the fact that despite its NATO membership, Turkey is maintaining some economic ties with Russia.

Turkey first signed a deal with Rosatom to build the power station in 2010 with construction starting in 2018.

The Akkuyu plant was originally scheduled to produce its first electricity in 2023 and is expected to produce 10% of the country’s electricity needs once fully operational.

At the video ceremony, Erdogan boasted that he was "proud to be making the move that will place Turkey among the nuclear power countries of the world."

Russian President Vladimir Putin described the plant the "biggest project in the history of Turkish-Russian ties."

Russia's expertise in nuclear power

Experts say that as the world looks for alternatives to fossil fuels, Turkey is not the only country tapping Russia’s expertise in nuclear power.

"It is also been able to offer a type of a “one stop shop and offer” to many countries where it offers all levels of cooperation, from training the staff to work in the plan, to designing, to planning, to building the plant, to supplying fuel, to taking care of the waste,” said Indra Overland at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.

According to Rosatom, its order books are full of foreign contracts with 36 contracts at different stages of implementation in 2020.

In many cases the work is continuing despite sanctions imposed by many nations after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

“Russia is quite good at getting around and adapting to sanctions,” said Indra Overland. “And often western actors overestimate the impact of sanctions and are not active enough in implementing sanctions and in tightening them to really stop Russia. “