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Thumbs down for Argentina’s costly Atucha II nuke reactor

June 17, 2007

I was very surprised to hear a while back 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 and continues to be a dark spot in the country’s nuclear sector. 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) estimated its final cost would have been about 1.5 billion dollars, if operational in 1987.

To deal with the gas and power crisis, President Néstor 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.

Originally posted in

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