Nuclear Energy in South America Remains at a Standstill

  • nucdev symbolArgentina and Brazil Face Formidable Funding Issues to Start or Complete Long Planned New Nuclear Power Stations.
  • Argentina Scaled Down a Two Reactor Deal with China, Amidst a Crashing Economy, Over Concerns about Its Ability to Pay for Them
  • Brazil is Seeking a Partner to Finish a Long Delayed Third Reactor Who Can Fund It and Build It.

Other Nuclear News

  • Perry – US Continues Talks with Saudi Arabia on Nuclear Energy
  • India Plans Expansion of Nuclear Fleet with 17 PHWRs, says DEA Chairman
  • Romania Considering SMRs For Beyond 2030
  • Czech Republic Needs More Nuclear Reactors to Power the Nation Say Utility Study by Grid Operator

China’s Investments in Argentina’s Nuclear Energy Projects May Not Pan Out as the Country’s Economy Takes a Nose Dive

(Diálogo Chino – Buenos Aires) Argentina is facing a new economic crisis that severely challenges its ability to repay foreign lenders. This includes China – its fourth largest lender – which has issued US$16.9 billion in loans from 2007 to 2018, according to the Inter-American Dialogue. The country is regarded by some financial analysts as being on the brink of financial default.

With few new means of servicing the country’s debts, including payments of US$52 billion due next year, President Mauricio Macri ends his term with Argentina on the brink of default.

Loans Haven’t Helped

Over the past decade, Argentina has secured Chinese funds for eleven projects, including railways, solar energy, nuclear energy and dams, mainly through the Export Import Bank of China (China Exim) and China Development Bank. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to provide a record US$57 billion bailout package in August.

Critics have warned of tying Argentina to expensive infrastructure projects that would limit the country’s future policy choices.

Key Loans from China

Over the past decade, Argentina has secured Chinese funds for eleven projects, including railways, solar energy, nuclear energy and dams, mainly through the Export Import Bank of China (China Exim) and China Development Bank.

All of these financial issues are coming to head and will likely have an impact on China’s offer to build a new nuclear power station in Argentina. In 2015 the $10 billion deal involved two plants, a 700 MW CANDU type reactor and a 1000 MW PWR design offered by China for export and known generally as the Hualong One.

Argentina already has two CANDU type nuclear reactors and building a third one would have made a lot of sense in terms of fueling and servicing all three.

One of the most significant China loans was for 85% of the cost of constructing two hydroelectric dams in Patagonia, at a cost of US$4.7 billion. The project was awarded in 2013 and construction began in 2015. It then stalled due to environmental groups’ concerns over unsatisfactory environmental impact studies.

The China Development Bank included a loan clause that made other infrastructure projects in Argentina, including the nuclear power plants, conditional on the approval of the dams. Aware of this, Argentina President Macri gave them the green light to resume construction but at at reduced scale.

Chinese lenders have had to downsize their ambitions to build nuclear power stations in Argentina. Originally, the $10 billion project involved two plants, but President Marci froze the project amid doubts over whether the country could afford it. The result was that the CANDU plant was cancelled and China, seeking global acceptance of its flagship design of the Hualong One, apparently insisted on going ahead with it. The deal also includes selling fuel to the plant for its projected 60 year service life.

The result is that Argentina will lose the advantages of a third CANDU type plant by agreeing to China’s patience in funding the Hualong One. China has always made these kinds of loans with geopolitical goals in mind.

“When I ask Chinese companies why they come here with such a difficult financial situation, they always say the same thing. They invest abroad always thinking of the long-term, so they are not worried about not being paid,” said Ernesto Fernández Taboada, head of the China-Argentina chamber of commerce.

Critics point out that these projects don’t help Argentina’s financial situation. The loans have enabled projects that were not feasible for Argentina to fund on its own. However, they also concentrated Argentina’s debt obligations to China on big projects that take a long time to provide returns.

Former energy secretary Jorge Lapeña told Diálogo Chino that Argentina has agreed to build large dams and nuclear plants with no long-term strategy for the energy sector or assessment of the costs of different energy sources. Lapeña and a group of other ex-energy secretaries claimed political ties, rather than sound economics, were responsible for the approval of the China-backed projects under Fernández de Kirchner.

“Projects are now decided based on political convenience. Then we have to deal with the problems when they have to be implemented.”

Alberto Fernández is odds on favorite to become the next president after winning 47% of the vote in the primaries. Macri earned just a 32% share.

Should Fernández win, it will likely mean deepening ties with China, which Macri was hesitant to do amid US warnings about China’s “predatory” activity in Latin America.

Brazil Solicits Bids from China, Russia, France to Complete Angra 3 Nuclear Project

(Reuters) – Brazil’s state nuclear power company Eletronuclear said thuis week it plans to complete its long-delayed Angra 3 plant by partnering with one of three firms – China’s National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), France’s EDF or Russia’s Rosatom.

Eletronuclear said it will decide by the end of the year whether to create a subsidiary joint venture or if the foreign partner will become a minority shareholder in the state company, which would also entitle it to a stake in its existing Angra 1 and 2 nuclear power plants.

The project is expected to cost an additional $3.7 billion on top of the $2.2 billion already spent on it. Angra 3 is 70% finished and 80% of the nuclear reactor equipment has been purchased by previous efforts.

Reuters reported that a spokesman for Eletronuclear said “the partner would require deep pockets.”

“We are looking for an international partnership to invest in the completion of Angra 3 and that partner would own part of the plant until the end of its life,” he said.

The firm made it clear that it is looking for a partner that will fund and build the plant. It said that firm will decide who the suppliers of equipment will be to complete it. This policy removes firms like U.S. based Westinghouse which has retreated from being the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) lead for new nuclear power station and instead wants to provide components for them.

Reuters also noted that South Korea’s Kepco Engineering and Construction and China’s State Power Investment Corporation also showed interest in Angra 3, located on the coast south of Rio de Janeiro, but that both firms seem less committed to exploring this type of partnership.

History of Angra 3

The plant was first planned in the 1980s but work stopped due to lack of funding. Building restarted in 2010, but Eletronuclear was devastated by a corruption scandal in 2015. It then stopped paying contractors such as French company Areva, which was installing the Siemens-designed reactor technology now owned by Framatome. The scandal involved the CEO of the state owned utility and construction firms. There was so much bribe money floating around that the cash was stashed odd places including a car wash.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January, has pledged to complete Angra 3 and to study new plants in a push to expand the contribution of nuclear power to Brazil’s electricity output which stands at 3% of electricity generation.

Eletronuclear said two potential sites for future plants have been identified, one in the northeastern state of Pernambuco and another in southeastern Minas Gerais state. Funding for these plants has not yet been approved nor has a design been selected for them.

Other Nuclear News

Perry – US continues talks with Saudi Arabia on nuclear energy

(S&P Global – Platts) The US continues to talk with Saudi Arabia about its plans to produce nuclear energy for power generation according to a statement from outgoing DOE Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Perry told Platts that he will meet next week with Riyadh with Abdulaziz bin Salman, the energy minister for Saudi Arabia which had previously stated its ambitions to enrich its own uranium deposits to produce nuclear power. According to Perry, bin Salman’s claim that Saudi Arabia will exploit its own uranium resources for development may not hold water. Perry said that his agency has data that questions whether the uranium deposits are sufficient for this purpose.

Perry added that any nuclear agreement and protocols with Saudi Arabia would need approval of the US Congress.

President Trump has nominated Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette to replace Perry who will leave the post before the end of the year.

India Plans Expansion of Nuclear Fleet with 17 PHWRs, says DEA Chairman

(WNN) India is aiming for “fleet mode construction” for future nuclear power plant projects in order to reduce costs and construction times, according to Kamlesh Vyas, chairman of the country’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). Speaking at the India Energy Forum’s 11th Nuclear Energy Conclave in New Delhi on October 18, he said 17 nuclear power reactors are planned in addition to those already under construction.

It is expected that all 17 will be 700 MW PHWR based on an Indian design derivied from the CANDU units already in service. India’s heavy industry firms will be able to provide the component for the plants which have the advantage of not requiring the large forgings for PWR or BWW type designs.

Plans for Uranium Fuel for New Reactors

Speaking at the same event, former Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar said access to imported uranium can accelerate the nuclear program’s size. Referring to the waiver of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to India in 2008, he said the nuclear program now has much less constraints.

The NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries that contributes to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons by controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that could potentially be used in their manufacture. All of its members, unlike India, are signatories of the NPT. Measures including a comprehensive specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, an exception under NSG rules and a round of bilateral nuclear cooperation deals have enabled India to play an increasing part in the international nuclear marketplace.

India applied to join the NSG in May 2016, and the USA has previously pledged to work towards its entry into the group. The NSG at its June 2018 plenary said it “continued to consider all aspects” of its 2008 Statement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India and its relationship with the country. For geopolitical reasons, China has opposed India’s entry into the NSG.

Status of Proposals from Western Firms

Plans to build reactors based on designs from Areva/EDF and Westinghouse have not moved forward due to India’s draconian supplier liability law. This legislation has not stopped Rosatom which commissioned two 1000 MW VVER at Kudankulam and is building two more at that site.

The French government initially inked a deal for up to six 1600 MW EPRs at Jaitapur a decade ago,  but while the technical details have long since been worked out, NPCIL, which builds, owns, and operates India’s nuclear power stations has balked at the costs. It is not clear where a proposal by Westinghouse stands which was to have provided six 1150 MW AP1000s to a site at Andra Pradesh.

Romania Considering SMRs For Beyond 2030

(NucNet) Ramona Manesco, the country’s minister for foreign affairs, told a forum in Brussels Romania’s objective is to refurbish the Cernavoda-1 nuclear power plant and by 2030 to build a new unit on the same site, although beyond 2030 the country is considering new Generation IV reactors including small modular reactors.

“There is great potential in SMRs and we must work together to overcome all the challenges – financial, technological and regulatory – to demonstrate their feasibility, she said. “We have to make sure that appropriate funding is available for low-carbon Generation IV technology.”

In May Nuclearelectrica and China General Nuclear Group signed an agreement to set up a joint venture project company for the planned completion of the two units. CGN will hold a 51% stake in the company with Nuclearelectrica holding the remaining 49%. Nuclearelectrica said the two partially complete units are also Candu-6 plants.

Ms Manesco told the forum there is a need for a wide range of energy technologies and new nuclear technology including SMRs could help Europe achieve its climate goals.

Separately, Ms Manesco told the first US-EU High-Level Industrial Forum on Small Modular Reactors that Romania remains very interested in R&D in this field and is developing the Advanced Lead Fast Reactor European Demonstrator (Alfred) at the Institute of Nuclear Research.

The project aims at constructing a scaled-down 125-MW (300-MW thermal) next-generation reactor unit.

Czech Republic Needs More Nuclear Reactors to Power the Nation

(WNN) The Czech Republic will need to build not only one new unit at its Dukovany nuclear power plant, but also more reactors at Temelín if it is to avoid becoming dependent on electricity imports from 2030, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlíček said yesterday. Havlíček cited the latest Mid-term Adequacy Forecast (MAF CZ 2019) published on October 18th.

The Czech Republic has six nuclear reactors generating about one-third of its electricity. Four VVER-440 units are at Dukovany and two VVER-1000 units are at Temelín. The country is phasing out its coal-fired power plants and will need to increase the share of nuclear power if it is to remain self-sufficient in electricity supply.

The government’s long-term energy strategy, adopted in 2015, forecasts the need to increase the share of nuclear power in the country’s electricity mix by 20-25% to 50-55% by 2050. Czech utility CEZ has said it expects to operate the four Dukovany units until 2045 and 2047, and the two Temelín units until 2060 and 2062.

Havlícek told reporters that the government will need to start a debate within the next five years on expanding the Temelín nuclear power plant. According to, he said: “We are analysing the situation, saying what’s going to happen. To tell the truth, that should have been done 10 years ago.” He added: “Five years ago, we were at the eleventh hour and now, so to speak, the energy clock is ticking away, and if we don’t make a decision and set a clear path … then we may have problems in 2030.” Havlícek said CEPS’s scenarios were “optimistic” regarding renewables.

Czech Power Profile

  • Czech power demand rose by 0.2% year on year to 73.9 terawatt hours (TWh) last year, which is its highest level since 1981, when records began.
  • Production was 1.1% higher at 88 TWh, with brown-coal-fired facilities accounting for 43% of that figure, which was the highest share.
  • Exports of electricity rose by an annual rate of 9.3% to 25.5 TWh – mainly to Slovakia and Austria – and imports – mostly from Germany and Poland – decreased by 23.2% to 11.6 TWh last year.

Significantly, Austria, which has pursued an anti-nuclear policy regarding expansion of the Czech nuclear fleet, stands to benefit if it is expanded.  Go figure.

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