Embalse refurbishment contracts signed

25 August 2011

Candu Energy Inc - a subsidiary of Canada's SNC-Lavalin - has signed a series of contracts related to the refurbishment of the Embalse nuclear power plant in Argentina. The project will extend the plant's life by up to 30 years.


Embalse (Nucleoelectrica)
Embalse (Image: Nucleoelectrica)
Seven contracts worth $444 million were signed by the Argentine government, state-run utility Nucleoelectrica Argentina and Candu Energy. The contracts call for the transfer of Canadian technology and assistance in developing the local manufacture of reactor components.


Most significantly, the contracts cover the provision of tools, equipment and services required for the refurbishment of the Embalse plant, which comprises a single 600 MWe Candu-6 pressurized heavy-water reactor. This includes technical assistance throughout the process to retube the reactor, as well as providing the tools, engineering, procedures and technical specifications for the project. As well as supporting the domestic manufacture of reactor components, Candu Energy will also assist Nucleoelectrica in making design changes to the unit to increase its generating capacity.


After about 30 years, Candu reactors require a refit of the many pressure tubes that hold nuclear fuel bundles and carry heavy water coolant through the larger calandria vessel. After changing around 380 tubes, the reactors should be able to safely operate for another 25-30 years.


Announcing the contracts, Argentinean federal planning minister Julio De Vido said that the country can now "proceed to the final stage of the life extension of the Embalse plant." He noted that the total cost of the project will be "in the order of $1366 million." Contracts for work worth $800 million will be awarded to Argentinean companies, he added.


In August 2010, loans totalling some $240 million from the CAF development bank to support the refurbishment project were approved.


Jose Luis Antunez, vice president of Nucleoelectrica Argentina, noted that the Embalse plant has operated with "a flawless performance" since it started operating in 1984. For this reason, he said, "it is considered more than reasonable to extend its life for another 30 years." He also said that the reactor's generating capacity would be increased by 5% (about 35 MWe). Antunez commented that almost all the internal reactor components that will be replaced will be manufactured in Argentina.


He said that the refurbishment project has already started and will take five years to complete. According to Antunez, the Embalse plant will be taken offline in November 2013 for a period of 20 months for the retubing to take place.


In June, SNC-Lavalin announced that it had agreed to buy the Candu reactor division of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) from the Canadian government for C$15 million ($15.5 million). SNC-Lavalin's Candu Energy will take over the provision of services to the existing fleet of Candus around the world, execution of life extension projects and reactor new builds. The Canadian government will receive royalty payments from future new build and life extension projects and also retain ownership of all Candu intellectual property.


AECL, which originally supplied the Embalse reactor, said that it will begin the execution of the refurbishment contract with direct support from SNC-Lavalin, until the transaction between AECL and Candu Energy to acquire the commercial assets of AECL's Candu reactor division closes. At that point, Candu Energy will take over full responsibility for the contract.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News