Argentine reactor moves into commissioning

08 January 2013

Initial hot testing of the Atucha 2 nuclear power reactor in Argentina has successfully been completed. The 745 MWe pressurized heavy-water reactor (PHWR) is expected to begin generating electricity in June.

Atucha 2 hot tests, January 2013 (460x328)
Fuel loading at Atucha 2 (Image: Nucleoeléctrica)

Nuclear utility Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA reported that the loading of fuel into unit 2 of the Atucha plant - 115 km from Buenos Aires - began on 14 December 2012. The first core of the reactor will comprise 451 fuel elements, which have been produced entirely within Argentina and contain a total of 85 tonnes of natural uranium.

Nucleoeléctrica said that the first hot test and pressure test of the primary circuit and moderator of Atucha 2 was successfully completed at 1.50pm on 5 January. The test began on 29 October and included the circulation and heating of 500,000 litres of light water through the reactor's two main pumps and the four pumps of the moderator. The pressure within the primary system and moderator was then raised to 175 times atmospheric pressure to prove their strength and tightness.

Further hot tests will take place between February and April which will involve nuclear-generated steam and the synchronization of the unit to the national high-voltage grid. On the successful completion of these tests, the light water will be drained from the reactor, all the systems thoroughly dried and 600 tonnes of heavy water put into reactor systems. The unit will then be ready to start supplying electricity to the grid. This is expected in June, after which Atucha 2 will supply about 4% of the country's electricity.

Work originally began on Atucha 2 - a Siemens-designed PHWR unique to Argentina - in June 1981, before a lack of funds eventually caused the project to stall in 1994. The project was revived after a 2006 government decision to complete the plant as part of a $3.5 billion strategic plan for the country's nuclear power sector.

Civil works and mechanical assembly of the main components of Atuchu 2 was completed in September 2011. The plant marked the transition into its final pre-start testing phase with an inauguration ceremony attended by Argentinean president Cristina Fernandez.

Argentina currently has two nuclear power reactors (Atucha 1 and Embalse), both PHWRs, which generated about 5% of its electricity in 2011. Government plans call for the construction of a fourth unit and a feasibility study has already been undertaken.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News