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ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey's TAEK atomic energy authority on Monday granted Russian builder Rosatom a construction licence to start work on the first unit of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
The grant comes a day before a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Ankara, where Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will also attend a ceremony to officially launch Akkuyu's first unit.
"As a result of the construction licence process, an important step in the project started nearly three years ago, being completed ... it has been decided by TAEK to grant a construction licence for the construction of the first unit of the Akkuyu Nuclear Plant," Anadolu quoted a TAEK statement.
The $20 billion, 4,800 megawatt (MW) plant, is part of Erdogan's "2023 vision" marking 100 years since the founding of modern Turkey and is intended to reduce Turkey's dependence on energy imports.
However, since Russia was awarded the contract in 2010, the project has been beset by delays.
Last month, sources familiar with the matter said Akkuyu was likely to miss its 2023 target start-up date, but Rosatom, which is looking for local partners to take a 49 percent stake in the project, said it is committed to the timetable.
The Interfax news agency later cited the head of Rosatom saying that the sale of the 49 percent stake was likely to be postponed from this year until 2019.
Turkish companies have been put off by the size of the financing required as well as by concerns they will not receive a sufficient share of the lucrative construction side of the deal, two industry sources have said.
Putin will make a two-day visit to Turkey from Tuesday where he will meet Erdogan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for a summit on Syria.
(Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Orhan Coskun, editing by David Evans)