(NucNet) State owned Nucleoeléctrica Argentina is reported to be planning to resume work on the prototype Carem-25 small modular reactor project. In related actions for the country’s nuclear energy industry, it was also reported that there are plans for the refurbishment of the Atucha-1 nuclear power plant, and a used fuel dry storage facility at Atucha.
CAREM – the Central Argentina de Elementos Modulares – is a domestically designed and developed 25MW small modular pressurized water reactor. So far Argentina was investing about $63m (€46m) in the project.
The CAREM-25 prototype is being built at a site next to the Atucha nuclear power station in Lima, about 100 km northwest of the capital, Buenos Aires. Construction of CAREM-25 began with the completion of the pouring of first concrete in February 2014.
Press reports in Argentina said contractor Techint Engineering & Construction halted work on Carem-25 in November 2019, citing late payment from the government, unanticipated design changes and late delivery of technical documentation. Approximately 70% of the SMR’s components are from domestic suppliers.
Energy minister Sergio Lanziani defending the government’s position saying the project, on which work was suspended last year, were caused by “breaches from contractor companies.” He did not elaborate nor mention that the government has stopped paying its bills.
No completion date was set as a result of the decision to restart work. Long-term plans include development of a design and construction of a 100 MW unit for domestic electricity production and a 300 MW design intended for export.
Separately, the used fuel storage facility is essential for the continued operation of the Atucha-1 and Atucha-2 nuclear power plants.
The Atucha-1 life extension project will allow the 340-MW pressurised heavy water reactor unit, which began commercial operation in 1974, to continue operating, although Nucleoeléctrica did not say how long the planned extension will be for or when that work would get underway.
Argentina has three PHWRs – two at Atucha and one at Embalse – providing about 6% of its electricity generation.
Brazil Seeks Foreign Direct Investment for Angra-3
Over the past year Brazil has reached out to China, Russia, France, and the U.S. for investment in Angra-3. The plant has been under construction, with no completion date in sight, since 1984.
The development of Angra III began in 1984 as a Siemens/KWU pressurized water reactor but was halted in 1986 due to economic difficulties. About 70% of the plant’s equipment was purchased in 1985 but has been in storage ever since. Contrary to press reports, the plant is not “70% complete,” and a lot of work remains to be done.
Between 2007 and 2015 work started and stopped several times with different EPCs taking on the job. A corruption scandal in 2015 involving kickbacks from contractors to utility executives caused the latest interruption. There was so much paper currency involved in the kickbacks that the people taking the bribes ran out of room to store it and some of it was stashed in a car wash.
After stopping construction in 2015, the Brazilian government decided to auction off the incomplete power station to private investors in 2018. In Otober 2019 the Brazilian utility Eletronuclear short listed epressions of interest from the China Nationl Nuclear Corp, Fances EDF, and Russia’s Rosatom. South Korea’s KEPCO also indicated an interest, but not as an investor and EPC. However, no decision to award the work has taken place since then due in part to Brazils chaotic politics at the national level.
Westinghouse submitted an expression of interest in 2019 as a supplier but not as an EPC. In early 2020 the firm signed a letter of intent to be a supplier of components and to provide technical services but there were few details about the dollar value of the agreement. One item that was noted is that Westinghouse and Eletronuclear will work on meeting the requirements of Brazil’s nuclear regulator CNEN for approval to extend the operating licence of the 35-year-old Westinghouse-designed Angra-1 unit by 20 years to 60 years.
Whichever firm gets the nod to finish Angra-3, and so far none have, will need to provide financial support in return for a significant equity position for the life of the plant. The projected cost to complete the plant is estimated by the utility to be $3.7 billion. So far about $2.2 billion has been spent since the project began 46 years ago.
Bazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in Janaury 2020, committed to completing the plant. He also revived plans for two additional nuclear power stations, one in Pernambuco and the other in Minas Gerais.
In the short time he has been in office his adminitration has been in turmoil over the effects of the corona virus in Brazil and allegations of corruption that have resulted in the resignation of key government ministers. The health minister quit due to Bolsonaro’s reluctance to take proactive steps to stem the spread of the virus.
U.S. Firms Seek Nuclear Business in Brazil
(WNN) Brazil and the USA have signed agreements on extending the operation and generating capacity of Angra unit 1 and on cooperation in new nuclear technologies.
The agreements, between Westinghouse and Eletronuclear, and between the US Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and the Brazilian Association for the Development of Nuclear Activities (Abdan), were signed in February at the Brazil-US Energy Forum in Rio de Janeiro in the presence of Brazilian Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque and US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.
The U.S. delegation also included representatives of Framatome, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, and Holtec International, among others. An agreement for bilateral cooperation on development of nuclear energy was the key outcome of the meeting.
Eletronuclear President Leonam dos Santos Guimarães said the Angra 1 extension project was essential for the company’s future: “We hope that this cooperation program will be the first in a series of successful initiatives,” but he did not specify what they would be nor when they would kick off.
Brouillette added that, “Most of Brazil’s major hydro resources are tapped already” and nuclear power “could be a better way to provide grid security than wind or solar.”
Brouillette also said that the US delegation was promoting the benefits of small modular reactors from companies such as NuScale Power, which has an SMR design under review by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
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