Home Argentina national Buenos Aires Hours | The government advances its plan to build two new nuclear power plants

Buenos Aires Hours | The government advances its plan to build two new nuclear power plants


At the heart of a key step for Argentina and its need to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with the Paris Accord, Argentina is moving towards the construction of two new nuclear power plants – one with Chinese Hualong technology and the other with a Candu reactor combining national know-how and Canadian support.

Both projects are of strategic importance for geopolitical relations, while having the potential to translate into thousands of jobs, new know-how and a doubling of energy production for the next 15 years.

Since the Todos Front government came to power in December 2019, nuclear policy has once again become important for development. Last April, contacts with China were resumed in order to restart negotiations for the construction of a new nuclear power station with enriched uranium and light water. The idea is to reactivate plans that had stagnated under the previous administration of Mauricio Macri.

“When we came to power, we started planning our future with a short term program and a strategic plan because nuclear projects are long term. Within this framework, we will first start by building a 1,100 megawatt power plant with Hualong technology and for that we must conclude the negotiations to formalize the contract and start construction during the second half of next year ”, said José Luis Antúnez, president of the state company Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA. (which manages Atucha I and II and Embalse, among others, the three power plants operating in this country), said PERFIL.

President of Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA, José Luis Antúnez.

A fourth central

According to Antúnez, it will take eight years for Argentina’s fourth power station to be built, from the conclusion of the agreements and papers necessary to release Chinese funding.

The negotiation will thus comprise two stages – the first for Nucleoeléctrica Argentina and the CNEA (Comisión Nacional de Energía Atómica), to agree with the Asian giant of a contract also including the transfer of technology for the local manufacture of fuel for this plant.

“We estimate that the conversations will run until November or December,” Antúnez said.

The second stage aims to include the project in the bilateral agreement signed in 2014. The Energy Secretariat will lead the parallel negotiations related to the “financial package” which must be reconstituted since “the deadlines have expired”, according to the head of Nucleoeléctrica.

“Once we have made progress in this area, the authorities of both countries will engage and construction will begin, which we hope to take place in mid-2022,” he said.

“We will go ahead with the preparation of the land with soil studies and the paving of the access roads”, as well as the assembly of structures to store energy and water and supplies “for them. 5,000 workers and more who will come to Atucha where the factory power will be, ”Antúnez said.

The Embalse nuclear power station in the province of Cordoba.
The Embalse nuclear power station in the province of Cordoba.

Technology acquired, Canadian support

Nucleoeléctrica is already considering the construction of a fifth nuclear power plant, which will be a “national” project supported by Canada, a country which has transferred the technology that will be used. In this way, the bilateral energy relations, which began four decades ago with the construction of the Embalse power station in Cordoba, will continue for at least 40 years.

The main lines of this project have already been defined: it will be a natural uranium and heavy water power plant with a reactor based on Candu technology, which will benefit from local funding and “a programming different from the usual ”.

“We will be doing the engineering at Embalse where we have deposited all of our experience in the construction, design and operation of such plants. We will thus rely on the technicians and professionals of the area to produce the components, which will be many and manufactured locally, concentrating the resources of our mechanical and metallurgical industries, ”explained Antúnez.

While the country acquired the technology years ago, the know-how has been updated due to the recent conclusion of a key process, namely the extension of the useful life of the power plant. of Cordoba, which is already operational.

“We still have not chosen the site where we are going to build. It could be along a waterway or near Atucha. We left that for later because we are going to concentrate on the manufacture of the components, ”anticipated the head of the state-owned company.

The PIAP heavy water industrial plant in Arroyito, province of Neuquén.
The PIAP heavy water industrial plant in Arroyito, province of Neuquén.

Energy potential

Between the two plants, the Energy Secretariat plans to double the country’s installed energy potential over the next 15 years.

“With the three power plants in operation, we have about 1,700 megawatts combined. When the Hualong and Candu reactors come on stream, we will add an amount similar to Nucleoeléctrica’s installed capacity, ”Antúnez said.

Consulted on the importance that these projects will have in geopolitical terms, said the official, who estimated that “this will mean long-term bilateral relations” and, in the case of China, “the beginning of certain scientific and trade ties long term”. , as happened to us with Canada as since Embalse.

“When we build the Candu power station, even though it will be a national project with our technology, there will be Canadian participation,” he concluded.

Atucha nuclear complex in Lima, Zárate, province of <a class=Buenos Aires.” height=”449″ src=”https://fotos.perfil.com//2021/08/21/900/0/atucha-nuclear-complex-in-lima-zarate-buenos-aires-province-1220486.jpg” width=”800″/>
Atucha nuclear complex in Lima, Zárate, province of Buenos Aires.

The heavy water plant

Argentina is also moving towards the recovery of the Arroyito heavy water plant in Neuqu̩n, which was deactivated under the Cambiemos government with its laid-off workers. This plant produced a vitally important input for Atucha I and II and Embalse that will also be used to power the Candu power plant Рdeuterium oxide.

This substance is currently imported from abroad, which implies a higher cost for local production. As for the negotiations to relaunch it, PERFIL learned that “the project is progressing since the Directorate of Energy took the necessary measures to recover the production of heavy water of national origin”.

Despite resorting to foreign markets, the three plants consume 25 tonnes of heavy water per year, so “we don’t import large amounts of it.”

Once the recovery of the Arroyito plant has begun, it will take another year before supplying the plants again.

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