Thumbs down for Argentina’s costly Atucha II nuke reactor

by , under All categories, Enrique

I was very surprised to hear a while ago that the Argentinean government was breathing life back to the long-overdue Atucha II nuclear plant porject. Even if construction of the nuclear reactor began in 1981, Atucha II was never built. One of the reasons was its ungodly costs due mainly to delays.

In 1988, some analysts believed that the delay of 5-6 years in finishing construction of the then 743 MW nuclear reactor would end up costing $4.5 billion if built in the 1990s. If the plant would have been built on time, officials at the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) believed that its final cost would have been about 1.5 billion dollars, if operational in 1987.

To deal with the gas and power crisis, President Nestor Kirchner’s government announced in May 2004 an ambitious energy program. One of the plans in the energy program is finishing construction of the the Atucha II plant.

Kfaftwerk Union Aktiengesellschaft of Germany was supposed to construct the original reactor of Atucha II. The German company built in 1974 the 357 MW Atucha I, Latin America’s first nuclear reactor.

Despite the government’s optimism over the project, I’d be surprised if the plant will ever be built.

One matter that I haven’t heard anything about is how much Atucha II continues to cost or what was its final price since its construction is today twenty years behind schedule.

One may correctly ask if it’s morally right for the government to move ahead with an expensive nuclear program when Argentina has prodigious hydrocarbons reserves and where poverty has become one of the greatest social ills of this once-rich nation.

As long as poverty is the rule as opposed to the exception, Argentina won’t build atoms for progress, but for underdevelopment.

  1. Paddy

    yes, I sure hope there was no penalty “clause”- in fact I think that’s where the name for St. Nicholas came from -Santa Clause. Let’s face it, you got a time penalty clause built into a contract like that and man you’re buying big,big boats with Rod Steward on the bow singing “we are Sailing.” ( quote: “come on let’s set up a fort and start buying the place with beads” unquote)…. hydrocarbon…oil, gas and coal. I really don’t know anymore for sure. I was once an “Atom Kraft Nein Danka” head,,,,, had the badge and all to prove it, but, now sadly, I have to say ” when I was younger so much younger than today I never needed any…. help in any way, but now my life has changed in O, so many ways, now I find I change my mind…….every second day Help!!!. We’re not to fly so much now. Yes, tell that to India and China with the fastet growing aviation populations there is. So basically we’re caught betwen a rock and a hard place. What? Do we tell the poor nations to saty poor so we can live in comfort and throw into the frame that we in the “rich west” have to become poorer. Please excuse my banter, after all it is Sat. night and the piano has been drinking. I better stop now.
    Great post. Love something I can get my fingers clickingggggggg.
    Y;-) Paddy

  2. Walter

    let me tell the readers that Argentina does not at present have any “prodigious hydrocarbons reserves”. In fact due to the lack of investment in the last 15 years, reserves have been declining steadily. Nuclear power is indeed a sensible choice. Argentina has a good technological knowledge base in the sector (It has exported several research nuclear reactors, even to developed nations as Australia).

    The way cost is considered is tricky. What has already been spent, cannot be put in the equation, simply because you do not recover that money if the plant is not completed. That is already lost. The proper way is to consider, from now on, how much money you need to complete it, vs. how much power you will get. If that equation gives a good number, the country should go ahead.

  3. nemoo

    Hi Walter, you’re right in pointing out that upstream investment, especially after 2002, has fallen abruptly. In the 1990s Argentina was believed to house “generous” hydrocarbons reserves. So much so, in fact,, that it started to export piped gas to Chile, Brazil and Uruguay. Remember the 1970s, when the state oil company YPF had to import oil during the oil crises years of the 1970s? In the 1990s it started to export crude.
    While Argentina has ample hydrocarbons reserves to at least satisfy domestic demand, it’s the mismanagement and short-sightedness of energy and economic policy that is a cause for concern. As you know, the lack of investment caused by regulatory uncertainty today is one of the problems. The other challenges is building credibility after making, breaking and changing investment rules. Building nuclear capacity requires good checks and balances and, most importantly, stability.
    Many thanks for your insight on the matter.

  4. George

    Forall you doubters out there. On 6/17/09, President Cistina Fernandez de Kircheer attended the pressure tank closing ceremony at Atucha II, and spoke to an appreciative audience of almost 5000 technicians working on the plant. Hopefully we will see Cristina at AtuchaII in the not too distant future for the start up ceremony. During her speech she stressed that “we are going for Attucha III and CAREM”, the latest being low cost amall scale nuclear power plant for the export market. Argentina is betting hard on a future with Nuclear power. and why not. It is clean and safe. Perhaps we will see all 6 plants in operation one day soon as was always the plan. GOOD FORTUNES ARGENTINA!

    • Enrique

      Hi George, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Let’s hope what you say is true. However, energy wise Argentina has driven itself into a corner: there are many projects and less money to complete them. As you know Atucha II was supposed to be built in the 1980s and Yacyreta a long, long, time ago. The government, which does not even acknowledge that Argentina is suffering form an energy crisis, has, I guess, to build more nuclear generation capacity because it will soon lose its self-sufficiency in oil as it did with gas. For an energy and nuclear program to be successful it needs long-term planning. This, unfortunately, Argentina lacks. Argentina has the ability to rebuild a dynamic energy sector. However, with the present government, it looks unlikely they will achieve such a goal.

  5. Federico del Vall

    Dear fellows.
    Atucha II is fast to be put into service.
    Plans for Atucha III are on the go.
    Two hidroelectrical plants are being studied.
    Nothing gurka style, everything taking modern theories in account (greenware, for example).
    We are al 92% of consumption of the national grid.
    We are far from an energy crisis.
    Today a two sections rocket was tested. Mere 100 km. Success. By 2012 a 400 km two phase rocket is being built. Today guidance was tested. Self attiyude correction worked just beautiful.
    Please, trust us.
    Mrs. Cristina has instructed that In three years we shall be putting into orbit our own satellites.
    It’s all local technology. As in our 3D radars.
    You are talking of Menem times, who sold Argentina by the dollar.
    This are K times.
    This, my frieds, is european blood doing, building, going for it.
    Argentina was flooded by european immigrants in two waves, 1910, 1940.
    We are their proud sons and grand-sons.
    And w’ll do fine, while them let us do.
    By the by, Brazil’s laucher exploder twice: once just attaining position in the launch pad. The second try the day before launch, while the 00% of the tech boys and engineers were checking evey possible bolt on the launch pad – all of them dead.
    Whe have a leader. A true leader. Lét´s her guide us.
    Hope the papers pushed, instead of trying to destroy her.
    Problem is, Corporations are not allowed into the Casa Rosada.
    And papers don’t quote on good things.
    Regards, my friends from, Buenos Aires, a city you should indeed visit sometime in your lifetime.

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