China will help build two nuclear power plants in Turkey, it was revealed yesterday.
The deal signals a relaunch of Beijing's nuclear programme after the Fukushima disaster in Japan a year ago tomorrow.
Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will travel to Beijing next month to sign an agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
This will provide a policy basis for the two governments to finalise the commercial venture.
Beijing has previously provided nuclear technology to Pakistan. But the sales to Turkey will have an extra significance for both the mainland's nuclear industry and geopolitical strategy.
In an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan said his country wanted to complete three nuclear plants before 2023.
One in Mersin has already been contracted to Russia and is currently under construction.
For the other two in Akkuyu and Igneada, Turkey will hold talks with China, South Korea and Japan.
Babacan hinted that the two projects may not be awarded exclusively to a single country.
Instead, the three Asian nations may have to share the business.
He said: 'It doesn't have to be a competition ... You will see. We are very interested to talk with Chinese authorities on that issue.'
When asked if his government was confident about the safety and maturity of the Chinese technology, the minister said: 'Definitely.'
Industry sources said China would be particularly involved in the Igneada project, which is located near the Bulgarian border on the Black Sea coast.
In Beijing, a person familiar with the situation confirmed that China was in talks with the Turkish government in Ankara. He was confident that China would play a central role in both projects.
The source claimed Guangdong Nuclear Power Group was preparing to build the two pressurised-water reactors and indicated that South Korea and Japan would play only 'peripheral roles'.
He said the reactors would be based using French technology with significant Chinese improvements and modifications.
Beijing suspended the approval of all new nuclear projects and ordered a comprehensive review of the existing ones immediately after the Fukushima crisis.
But it is now ready to move ahead. Yang Qi, president of the Nuclear Power Institute of China and a top political adviser, said earlier this week in Beijing that Chinese nuclear technology was 'among the safest in the world'.
He believed that demand for nuclear energy around the world would gradually resume.
Some Chinese experts see the crisis as an opportunity for China to break into the market, with traditional suppliers such as France, Germany and the US in retreat.
The nuclear deal is also important to China's overall geopolitical strategy, with both sides expressing a strong wish to boost ties.
Additional reporting by Stephen Chen