Under Secretary Marisa Lago Remarks - April 5, 2022

Ankara, Turkey
April 5, 2022

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Ambassador Flake, for the kind introduction and for all that you are doing to strengthen the U.S.-Turkey relationship since arriving in Ankara. Given the demands on your time, it speaks volumes. And thank you to all who are joining us for the Eurasia Small Modular Reactor Forum. 

I am honored to address you from the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, where I join—in person—Deputy Minister Bayraktar, with whom I just had a very warm, productive and fascinating exchange.

It is such a pleasure to return to face-to-face bilateral meetings, but I am also grateful that the digital tools that we have all grown accustomed to that allow us to convene virtually today across five nations and multiple time zones. In particular, I thank our counterparts in Turkey, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan for participating.

I look forward to continuing to partner with all of you, along with Deputy Minister Bayraktar and our friends in the private sector, to advance innovative small modular reactor (SMR) technology in Eurasia.

This forum could not be timelier. We are navigating a moment in which diversifying energy sources is once again at the top of so many national agendas, with fluctuating energy markets and the return of conflict to Europe highlighting the importance of energy security and independence. At the same time, a pre-existing emergency—the climate crisis—grows more acute with each passing day, demanding urgent approaches to reduce emissions and develop clean energy capacity to meet growing demands.

In line with President Biden’s ambitious commitment to tackle the climate crisis at home and abroad, the U.S. Department of Commerce is doing its part to reduce emissions and accelerate the clean technology transition. We are harnessing the innovative power of the private sector to strive to achieve net-zero domestic emissions by 2050 and also catalyze global action.

This includes through close cooperation with countries like Turkey, yet another reason why I am pleased to be sitting alongside Deputy Minister Bayraktar in Ankara today. He has been an invaluable partner in pursuing clean energy solutions in this region, where Turkey is a true leader. 

From ratifying the Paris Climate Agreement in October 2021 to announcing a goal to reach net zero emissions by 2053, the Turkish government is demonstrating its commitment to a greener world. This also includes boasting an impressive 54 percent of total installed power generation capacity stemming from renewable energy power plants. Of course, we hope that small modular reactors will be an important part of the future clean energy mix in Turkey and throughout the region.

This brings us to the focus of this Forum—the uses and benefits of SMRs, a cutting-edge energy technology with transformative potential. SMRs are a keystone of the United States’ efforts to develop safe, clean, and affordable nuclear power options. Beyond the innovation that our private sector is driving, the Biden-Harris Administration is also taking steps to advance SMR technology and deployment, including launching a $25 million Nuclear Futures Package at COP26 to expand access to clean nuclear energy. 

We at the Department of Commerce are contributing through our SMR Public-Private Program (SMR PPP), which aims to promote cooperation on the development, financing and deployment of SMRs through government-to-government dialogue and coordination with the private sector. We are holding workshops and providing technical assistance and other support for developing SMR solutions in Bulgaria, Romania, and other nations across Europe and Eurasia. 

My U.S. government colleagues and our friends in the private sector look forward to discussing how SMRs will diversify energy supplies, reduce emissions, and perhaps most importantly, enhance energy security.

As somebody who trained as a physicist before entering government service, I am amazed by SMR technology and all that it offers. I cannot wait to tour one when they are in commercial operation—hopefully in the next few years.

These are not the massive, prohibitively expensive reactors of the last century. Rather, SMRs require limited capital investment, provide for incremental power additions and have relatively small physical footprints, allowing for more flexible siting. SMRs also provide an affordable solution to repurpose retiring coal plants, replacing generation capacity while reducing emissions. And—crucially—they offer distinct safety and nonproliferation advantages.

Even before long-run economic or operational advantages emerge, SMRs pose far fewer logistical hurdles than conventional nuclear power—and many fossil fuel—systems. These reactors can swiftly be assembled in a factory, transported by ship or train, installed on site, and connected to the electricity grid, significantly reducing startup time and costs. 

Later today and tomorrow, we will hear from leading U.S. companies that are pioneering SMR technology, including GE-Hitachi, Holtec, NuScale, Oklo, and TerraPower. These private sector innovators are eager to work together to safely deploy their technologies in service of a more energy secure future. You can also expect to hear further from our U.S. Department of Commerce team and U.S. Trade and Development Agency colleagues on financing and deployment.

Guided by their deep expertise, and fueled by your partnership, I am confident that our conversations today and tomorrow will catalyze meaningful action. I know that the U.S. companies who join us for this Forum are eager to make progress together in Turkey, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, and to catalyze our collective clean energy transition. 

I urge you to engage with them and our U.S. government team, and to consider how private and public sector SMR investment can help meet growing energy needs in the region. 

The monumental challenge of climate change cannot be addressed by any one nation alone—or an any one Forum for that matter. Nor can we ensure regional energy security by championing a single technology. 

But, working together to drive investment in and deployment of SMR technology, we stand to make enormous progress in meeting each of these pressing challenges. Together, we can safely and efficiently harness the mighty power of the atom to build a more sustainable and secure future. Please join us. 

With that charge, I am now pleased to introduce Deputy Minister Bayraktar to deliver his opening remarks. 

Deputy Minister Bayraktar was appointed Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Turkey in 2018. Prior to assuming this position, he was the Deputy Undersecretary of the same Ministry. 

The Deputy Minister also serves as the Chairman of the World Energy Council Turkey and has served as past Chairman of the International Confederation of Energy Regulators, and the Energy Regulators Regional Association.  

He received his doctorate in energy and environmental economics from Middle East Technical University, M.A. in international relations from Tufts University, LL.M. in law and economics from Bilkent University, and his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Istanbul Technical University.

I am sure that you are as impressed as I am by the Deputy Minister’s accomplishments. But what this description cannot fully capture is the Deputy Minister’s energy, collaborative spirit and his true leadership—not just in Turkey, but in the region and beyond.

Thank you again, Deputy Minister Bayraktar, for hosting me. I wish our attendees an enjoyable, insightful, and productive Forum. Thank you.