Argentina considers Atmea1

12 July 2012

The Atmea1 reactor design has been 'pre-selected' by Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA (NA-SA) as one option for the construction of a third unit at the Atucha nuclear power plant.

Atmea1 460x230
A cutaway of a plant based on the Atmea1 reactor design

Atmea has been informed by Nucleoeléctrica that its reactor design had been pre-qualified for Atucha 3. "By pre-selecting the Atmea1 technology, NA-SA acknowledges that the Atmea1 reactor is a qualified design that could meet the most stringent safety requirements and fit the needs of NA-SA," Atmea said. Atmea is a 50-50 joint venture created by Areva and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) in 2007 for the design, licensing, certification, marketing, sale, construction and commissioning of a single type of 'nuclear island' to be installed in nuclear power plants - the reactor, coolant system and the steam generation units.

The reactor being touted for this nuclear island - the Atmea1 design - is an 1100 MWe pressurized water reactor which combines technologies from both companies. According to the companies, the design features long operation cycles, short refuelling outages and the load-following ability to adjust power output by 5% per minute. The Atmea1's safety features include both passive and active systems, including a core catcher.

Argentina has two operating nuclear reactors, one at Atucha and the other at Embalse. A second unit at Atucha is nearing completion. Work began on it in 1981 but was suspended due to lack of funds in the 1990s before the project resumed in 2006. All three units are pressurized heavy-water reactors (PHWRs). Embalse is a 600 MWe Candu-6, while the Atucha units are a Siemens design unique to Argentina.

Government plans call for the construction of a fourth unit and a feasibility study has already been undertaken. In July 2007, Nucleoeléctrica signed an agreement with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) to establish contract and project terms for construction of a 740 MWe gross Enhanced Candu 6 reactor, as well as completing Atucha 2. A further 740 MWe Enhanced Candu 6 unit was proposed. However, the government has also been talking with reactor vendors from France, Russia, Japan, South Korea, China and the USA, suggesting that the choice of reactor design may not be certain. A final decision on Atucha 3 is pending completion Atucha-2, which is expected to start up next year.

Earlier this year, the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission announced that it had narrowed down its search for a supplier of the country's first nuclear power plant to two vendors: Russia's AtomStroyExport and the Atmea consortium, describing them as the two suppliers "best qualified" with the technology to meet Jordan's requirements.

In February, the French nuclear safety regulator, the Autorité De Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), gave its preliminary approval of the safety options for the Atmea1 design - an important step to demonstrate the licensability of the reactor.

Atmea president Philippe Namy commented, "After Jordan pre-selection of the Atmea1 design in May and as confirmed by the recent positive statement of the French nuclear safety authority (ASN) on the Atmea1 reactor's safety options, this NA-SA decision confirms the trust being placed on the Atmea1 technology." He added, "I am confident that its design will fulfil stringent Argentine requirements."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News