Turkey nears decision in $22 billion nuclear plant tender

‘Race is still continuing’

Turkey is close to making a decision in a $22 billion tender as a report said a Japanese-French consortium was in the lead to build the country's second nuclear plant to power its rapidly developing economy.
"There is no scheduled timeline when the tender process will be finalised but all I can say is that we are nearing the end," a senior energy ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in a consortium with France's Areva are expected to win the tender, Japan's Nikkei business daily reported earlier on Thursday.
Turkey's energy and natural resources ministry held talks with the Japanese government and company officials in Ankara on Wednesday and told them of its readiness to place the order from the two firms, it said.
A Mitsubishi Heavy spokesman had declined to confirm the Nikkei report.
And Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said it was too early to declare a winner.
"We are currently holding talks with China and Japan," Yildiz said in a televised interview.
"I can say Japan's claims are premature and the race is still continuing," Yildiz said.
He said that intensive talks were being held with both Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and the Chinese company, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Co.
The unnamed ministry official said delegations from the two shortlisted bidders would be in Turkey this week for further negotiations.
The Nikkei business daily said that under the expected order, Mitsubishi and Areva will build four pressurised water reactors with a combined output of 4.5 million kilowatts in Sinop on the Black Sea coast.
Construction is slated to begin in 2017, with the first reactor coming on line by 2023, it said.
Canadian and South Korean companies were originally also in the tender process, but Yildiz said they were no longer in the running for a number of reasons including Ankara's refusal to provide treasury guarantees.
"It is significant for political stability in Turkey to implement this project without being a burden on the national economy, and without getting any extra share from the budget," he said.
The Nikkei report sent Areva shares up 5.5 percent in afternoon trading on the Paris stock exchange.
Energy-hungry Turkey, which relies heavily on gas and oil imports from Russia and Iran, is planning to build three nuclear power plants to reduce its dependence on foreign energy sources.
Ankara struck a deal with Russia in 2010 to build the country's first power plant at Akkuyu in southern Turkey.
The selection of the Mitsubishi-Areva consortium would mark an improvement in Turkish-French ties, which have been strained by a French bill to make it a crime to deny that the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I constituted genocide.
Although the legislation was later declared invalid by France's constitutional court, it hit severely French businesses operating in Turkey, particularly in obtaining big state contracts.