Turkey has a long history with nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. However, the history is not widely discussed, nor is it widely reported on in the Turkish press. Thus, I thought I would make an easy to follow timeline for all of those interested in Turkey’s nuclear history.
1953 – President Eisenhower gives his famous Atoms for Peace speech
1957 – Turkey and the U.S. sign their first nuclear cooperation agreement. The agreement had minimal safeguards. American officials were not concerned about the proliferation threat posed by the export of small quantities of highly enriched uranium. The U.S. argued that the small research reactors being built were not ideal for weapons production.
1957 – The U.S. and NATO agree to the forward deployment of U.S. nuclear capable medium range ballistic missiles in Europe at a summit in Paris.
1959 – Construction begins on a 1 MWth research reactor at Cekmece Nuclear Research Center outside Istanbul. The reactor was built on a turn key contract by American Machine Foundry.
1959 – Turkey and the U.S. agree to the deployment of 1 Jupiter missile squadron at Cigli air base near Izmir. The missiles are placed under dual control, meaning that both American and Turkish air crews had the ability to fire them. The 1 megaton warheads, however, remained under the control of the U.S. Air Force.
1962 – The 15 Jupiter missiles became operational and custody of some missiles was turned over to the Turkish Air Force.
1962 – Turkey’s 1 MWth research reactor at Cekmece goes critical.
1962 – The Cuban Missile Crisis – The United States agreed to trade Turkish Jupiters for the removal of Russian nuclear weapons from Cuba. The agreement was made in secret and the Turkish military was not consulted. The United States, however, insisted that that the Russian removal of weapons from Cuba appear disconnected from the American removal of the Jupiters from Turkey.
1963 – After convincing the Turkish side that it was in their best interest to remove the missiles, dismantlement of the Jupiters begins in early April 1963. It was completed in mid-April 1963.
1966 – The U.S. begins development of the B61 gravity bomb, which is eventually deployed in Europe. Turkey, during the 1960s, was home to American nuclear artillery shells and short range battle field nuclear weapons.
1966 – Turkey established its second nuclear research center near the capital city of Ankara. The Ankara Nuclear Research and Training Center (ANRTC) was tasked with undertaking the country’s first studies for the exploitation of domestic uranium reserves for the eventual use in a pressurized heavy water nuclear power plant.
1969 – Turkey signs the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
1974 – The Turkish invasion of Cyprus prompted U.S. concerns about the command control of U.S. nuclear weapons on alert air craft in Turkey and Greece. The tensions led to a U.S. decision to remove nuclear warheads from Greek Nike air defenses and from Turkish and Greek alert aircraft.
1974 – The Akkuyu nuclear site was licensed and Turkey stepped up efforts to purchase a nuclear power reactor.
1977 – ASEA-ATOM and STAL-LAVAL submit a bid for Turkey’s first nuclear tender. The two sides signed a preliminary agreement and entered into financial negotiations
1977 – Turkey decommissioned the 1 MWth research reactor at Cekmece research center.
1979 – A 250 kWt comes online at Istanbul Technical University and the decommissioned 1MWth reactor is replaced with a 5MWth research reactor.
1980 – Talks with Sweden break down after the military coup. Turkey ratifies the NPT.
1983 – Turkey issues a new nuclear tender for the construction of a reactor at the Akkuyu and Sinop sites. Turkey sends three letters to AECL, General Electric, and Kraftwerk Union expressing interest in further negotiations for the supply of nuclear reactors. Despite financial difficulties, Ankara announces plans for two units at Akkuyu and one at Sinop.
1984 – General Electric cancels its participation in the tender, citing problems with the financial terms. Turkey begins to insist on the supplier paying 100 percent of the construction cost, operating the unit for a set period of time, and recouping its investment from guaranteed electricity sales before transferring the reactor to a Turkish company. This financial arrangement, known as built-operate-transfer (BOT), had never been used for a nuclear reactor before.
1985 – Turkey is estimated to have 490 nuclear gravity bombs at five air bases.
1985 – The Turkish Parliament ratifies a nuclear cooperation agreement with Canada.
1986 – Turkey’s pilot scale fuel production facility comes online.
1988 – Turkey officially cancels its nuclear tender. AECL, which had emerged as the front-runner, could never agree on the BOT financing arrangements.
1988 – Turkey and Argentina sign a nuclear cooperation agreement (Ratified in 1992).
1990 – Turkey is estimated to host 8 32 inch nuclear artillery pieces and American nuclear weapons deployed at Balikesir, Murted/Akinci, and Incirlik.
1991 – Operation desert storm and resulting revelations about Iraq’s nuclear program, prompts Turkey turn its attention to the threats posed by proliferation in the Middle East.
1996 – The U.S. withdraws the Air Force teams responsible for nuclear weapons from Balikesir and Murted/Akinci. The ~90 bombs are consolidated at Incirlik air force base.
1996 – Turkey and Israel sign a military cooperation agreement.
1996 – Turkey opts to hold another tender for the construction of a nuclear power plant at Akkuyu. AECL, a French-German consortium dubbed NPI, and a consortium made up of Mitsubishi and Westinghouse all expressed interest. AECL emerges as the front-runner.
1997 – The post-modern coup prompts Turkey to delay the tender deadline for two months to allow Westinghouse to submit a bid. Westinghouse is now considered to be the front-runner.
1997 – Discussions begin for the sale of the Israeli Arrow missile defense system to Turkey.
1998 – Turkey and Germany conclude a nuclear cooperation agreement (Ratification still pending). South Korea and Turkey conclude a nuclear cooperation agreement (Ratified in 1999).
1999 – A massive earthquake hits near Istanbul, killing thousands and slowing the country’s tender process.
1999 – France and Turkey sign a nuclear cooperation agreement (Ratified in 2011).
2000 – U.S. and Turkey agree to a nuclear cooperation agreement (Ratified in 2006).
2001 – After opposing the Turkish – Israel talks for the sale of the Arrow, the U.S. joins the negotiations. The Bush Administration proposes the joint development of missile defenses in Turkey.
2001 – A financial crisis, and the terms of the International Monetary Fund’s bailout, ended Turkey’s nuclear tender. All together, the government missed seven self-imposed deadlines and did not appear ready to select a winner. The terms of the IMF aid package also ended Turkey’s efforts to purchase Israeli missile defenses.
2008- Turkey announces a new nuclear tender, but is shocked when only one company submits a bid.
2009 – Turkey cancels the tender and opts to negotiate bilaterally with potential nuclear energy suppliers. As a result, Turkey and Russia reach an agreement for the construction of four nuclear power plants at the Akkuyu site. The deal follows a build-operate-own format – meaning that Russia will provide 100% of the financing, recoup its profits through guaranteed electricity sales, and then operate the plant.
2009 – Turkey and Russia sign a nuclear cooperation agreement. (Ratified in 2010)
2010 – NATO agrees to mission requirements for the B61-12. The Alliance agrees on the specifications for NATO’s newest nuclear weapon. The United States is amid a program to modernize the B61 family of nuclear weapons. Essentially, the U.S. is consolidating all of the B61 models into one new bomb dubbed the B61-12. In 2010, NATO agreed on the yield, a guided tail kit, and the options for ground and air burst.
2010 – NATO agrees to a new Strategic Concept that maintains that the Alliance will work towards the elimination of nuclear weapons, but will remain a nuclear alliance so long as nuclear weapons remain in existence. The document also proclaims that the supreme security of the allies is maintained by U.S. long range nuclear weapons. Thus, opening the door for the possible removal of U.S. nuclear weapons in the future.
2011 – Turkey and Jordan sign a nuclear cooperation agreement (Ratification still pending).
2012 – U.S. awards contract to Boeing for the B61-12’s guided tail kit. Thus, taking the first step towards operationalizng the plan for the upgraded weapon.
~2019 – Turkey is expected to receive the F-35 and the new B61-12. However, given the way both programs are going, I would not hold my breath.
*Just to be clear, Turkey does not have its own nuclear weapons, nor has it ever pursued a nuclear weapons capability. Moreover, Ankara’s nuclear energy efforts have nothing to do with a nuclear weapons program.