Italian-Argentine construction conglomerate Techint has announced it will halt the construction of nuclear reactor in Buenos Aires Province, temporarily suspending 270 of its workers for three weeks as a result of the decision.
According to reports, the firm told workers – who protested against the decision to shut down construction at the Carem 25 nuclear reactor – that the suspension is a result of late payments from the national government.
Demonstrators told local outlets that company officials said they had filed a late payment claim with that National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA), which also sought to renegotiate price readjustments, but that the firm was yet to receive a response.
According to Ámbito Financiero, sources inside the company said they had also received technical documentation “late” and that CNEA officials had been making “permanent changes” to the work.
Many of those who have been laid off are part of the UOCRA construction workers’ union and perform maintenance work, such as security, cleaning and transportation. The majority live in nearby Zárate and Lima, two cities in Buenos Aires Province.
In total, some 500 workers will be temporarily laid off. Of that figure, 270 are employed by Techint.
The Carem 25 (Central Argentina de Elementos Modulares) nuclear reactor is the first of its kind to be fully designed and built in Argentina. The prototype is being constructed in Lima, Buenos Aires Province. The small modular reactor that will be used to generate electricity. It is located near Zárate, in the northern part of Buenos Aires Province beside the Atucha I nuclear power plant.
According to the national government’s website, its construction is “a milestone” for Argentina in “development and start-up of nuclear power plants.”
However, construction has been rife with problems. Various conflicts have emerged with the Mauricio Macri administration and, as a result, completion for the project has been pushed back from 2020 to 2022, with many expected the date to be pushed back again in the future.
In January, things were so bad that Techint threatened to pull out from the project, though the firm eventually reached an agreement with the national administration.
Speaking earlier this week, Techint CEO Paolo Rocca lamented “a loss of confidence” in Argentina’s economy, arguing that people “don’t want [social] plans, they want jobs.”
"The great challenge of the country is the growth of employment and the most important issue is social mobility," Rocca told fellow businessmen at a meeting of the Argentine Business Association (AEA).
"To build trust, you have to have a long-term vision. Growth is employment and employment is social integration," Rocca declared, going on to highlight the potential of Argentina’s giant Vaca Muerta shale formation.
Addressing the wider social and economic situation in the region, Rocca said bluntly: "Everything is broken."
The veteran businessman – whose fortune is estimated by Forbes to be as large as US$8 billion – said that almost every nation in Latin America had experienced a deterioration in industrial activity over the last decade, with the exception of Mexico.