Investment in Argentine nuclear

04 August 2010

Argentina's Embalse nuclear power plant will get a refit to extend its life by another 25 years as well as a brand new full-scope simulator. The country is also talking to China about a new reactor at the plant. 


Loans from the CAF development bank to support the refurbishment project were signed off in Buenos Aires by Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, CAF head Enrique Garcia and minister of economy and public finance Amado Boudou. Some $240 million will go towards refurbishing the plant, owned by Nucleoelétrica Argentina SA (NA-SA).


Garcia said the loan would support the country's overall energy plans as well as "improve the quality of life of approximately 3.5 million people who use the power generated by the plant and favour the development of science and technology in Argentina." As well as 600 MWe in electricity, Embalse also produces cobalt-60 for medical and industrial purposes.


Embalse (NA-SA)
Plenty of room for expansion at Embalse (Image: NA-SA)


The Embalse Candu pressurized heavy-water reactor (PHWR) was built by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd in the early 1980s as Argentina's second nuclear power plant. Atucha was the country's first, with a 335 MWe Siemens-supplied PHWR. A second Siemens unit that began construction at Atucha in 1981 is finally nearing completion and slated to begin operation next year.


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 years. The first such refurbishment is underway at Point Lepreau in Canada, while similar work has taken place at Bruce to bring laid-up reactors back into service.


Embalse control room (NA-SA)
All systems go. The new simulator will match the control room
exactly (Image: NA-SA)


Another aspect of the service extension project is a new full-scope simulator to be supplied by L-3 MAPPS. This was announced on 3 August, just four days after the CAF loans, with work said to be starting immediately. The simulator should go into service in 2012 featuring full replicas of control room panels


Leader of the Embalse extension project Rubén Semmoloni welcomed the new tool: "For years we have fulfilled our training needs without a plant-specific simulator, and we now look forward to having our own state-of-the-art simulator, which we see as a central part of our personnel training and safety culture."

Towards Embalse 2 


Talks took place last month between China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and Argentine minister of federal planning, public investment and services, Julio De Vido. During a Chinese presidential visit, CNNC official Mao Xiaming spent 45 minutes with De Vido and confirmed China's willingness to take part in a tender for the construction of Embalse 2.
China has supplied pressurized water reactors to Pakistan, and plans to supply more, but these deals have come in the context of the countries' regional alliance. A successful export to Argentina would represent a significant first foray into the wider commercial nuclear sphere.


Agentina began negotiations with AECL towards building one or two new Candu units at Embalse in July 2007, but any results from this were not taken forward by the Argentine government. Earlier this year Argentina signed an agreement with Russia's Rosatom to share technical information related to the construction of nuclear power plants and look at possibly using Russian technology. 


Researched and written
by World Nuclear News