Talks are ongoing between Turkey and China for the construction of a nuclear power plant in eastern Thrace with Turkish Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar saying progress has been made and the two sides may reach an agreement in a few months.

Bairaktar said that senior officials of the Chinese government visited eastern Thrace and saw the sites where construction is planned.

“We have reached a very important point and we have to complete the deal in a few months”Bayraktar said. “There are still some other points of interest that need to be resolved, but we have already had several negotiations and we are very close. I don’t think we have big differences. We are able to conclude an agreement with China on the nuclear energy program soon.”

Members of the delegation that visited the area in Thrace for inspection were reportedly China National Energy Administration Vice President He Yang and State Power Investment Corporation Senior Vice President Lu Haongzao.

Turkey has an ambitious nuclear program. Russia is already building a power plant in Akkuyu that will be partially operational next year, and talks are underway with South Korea and Moscow about a second plant it plans to build in Sinop.

The government is also open to building small modular reactors (SMR’s) with the UK, US and Francebut projects must be licensable, i.e. tested and safe, commercially and locally produced.

Akkuyu Power Station has already made a significant contribution to the Turkish economy and energy sector. The project contributed 47% locally and is valued at around $4.3 billion.

Thousands of Turks work on the project and make up 80% of the workforce building the factory. Almost 4,000 people will work at the factory in Akkuyu once it is fully operational, and Ankara aims to ensure that at least 30 percent of them will be Turkish citizens.

Turkey recently sent 317 students to Russia to train in nuclear engineering and steps are being taken to further develop nuclear education in Turkeysuch as new programs in universities and high schools of Istanbul.