Argentina and China this week announced an agreement to construct the Latin American country’s fourth nuclear power plant, just days before President Alberto Fernández is due to visit Beijing.
State-owned energy company Nucleoeléctrica Argentina and the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) signed a contract Tuesday for the development of ‘Atucha III,’ which will feature a 1,200 megawatt electric reactor (MWE) and have an initial operating life of 60 years.
The project, part of the government’s ‘Nucleoeléctrica Plan,’ will require an investment of more than US$8 billion and create 7,000 jobs, according to a statement.
The plant will be located at the Atucha Nuclear Complex in Lima, in northern Buenos Aires Province. Construction works are expected to begin at the end of this year.
The EPC (engineering purchasing and construction, for its acronym in English) contract provides for the provision of engineering, construction, acquisition, start-up and delivery of a plant of HPR-1000 type, which will use enriched uranium as fuel and light water as coolant and moderator.
The news was announced at a virtual press conference attended by Buenos Aires Province Governor Axel Kicillof, China’s Ambassador to Argentina Zou Xiaoli, his Argentine peer in China, Sabino Vaca Narvaja, and Energy Undersecretary Federico Basualdo, among others.
“We all know that without energy we have no development or possible future, so it is a great pleasure for me to accompany this signing,” said Kicillof.
Nucleoeléctrica President José Luis Antúnez, stressed the importance of advancing in concrete actions, “so that we can supply Argentina’s electricity demand with basic, clean, safe, and sustainable energy, and combat the effects of climate change that affects the planet.”
The state firm operates and constructs Argentina’s three existing nuclear power plants, which include the Juan Domingo Perón – Atucha I, Néstor Kirchner – Atucha II sites, both located in Lima; and Embalse, in Córdoba Province, providing up to 7.5 percent of Argentina's electricity, according to private estimates.
Fernández arrived in Beijing late Thursday night ahead of a four-day visit that includes a headline-grabbing meeting with Chinese Premier Xi Jingping.
Trips to the Museum of the Chinese Communist Party, the Forbidden City, Mao Zedong's mausoleum and the Great Wall are also on the presidential agenda.
The Peronist leader, who will attend the inauguration of the 2022 Winter Olympics on Friday and meet Argentina’s athletes on Sunday, is seeking to deepen ties with China during his visit. Talks are expected to focus on boosting trade between the two nations.
"It is a great opportunity to make our ties and common commercial projects more solid," Fernández told China Central Television (CGTN) earlier this week.
One of the president's aims is to advance ongoing talks for a new currency swap. Buenos Aires has asked the Chinese authorities for an extension of an existing agreement by a further US$1.3 billion in order to boost Central Bank reserves.
Fernández and Xi will also discuss ongoing and potential infrastructure and construction projects, with Atucha III the latest in a series of works undertaken with Chinese capital.
Reports in multiple outlets this week suggested the two nations are close to agreeing a five-year investment plan worth an initial US$35 billion which would pave the way for several major energy and infrastructure projects to get underway, including two hydroelectric dams in Santa Cruz Province, Néstor Kirchner and Jorge Cepernic (former Cóndor Cliff and La Barrancosa).