Argentina’s decision to proceed with the construction of a fourth nuclear power plant with technology and financing from China did not go unnoticed in the United States government† Last week, a large delegation of 15 officials from Joe Bidenunder the orders of Ann Ganzer, Undersecretary for Non-Proliferation Policy at the State Department, visited the country and expressed concerns “on the quality of the Chinese security check”said the expert in an interview with THE NATIONat the residence of the US Ambassador to Argentina.
Ganzer passed this message directly to Ministers Matías Kulfas (Productive Development), Daniel Filmus (Science and Technology) and Jorge Taiana (Defence); the Chief of Staff, Juan Manzur, the Secretary for Strategic Affairs, Gustavo Béliz, and the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pablo Tettamanti
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“It is Argentina’s sovereign decision to choose who it wants to associate with to expand nuclear power generation, but we want to warn that China has a less strict view of security and protection than we do; they take shortcuts† We’ve talked to the regulators to make sure they know and understand what the Chinese reactor looks like and they’re really verifying that technology to make sure it works,” Ganzer said.
Last February, Argentina signed an agreement with China confirming the construction of a fourth nuclear power plant Atucha III† These negotiations lasted more than 10 years and also involved the government of Mauricio Macri, who decided to go ahead with the reactor Chinese Hualong One Technologylight water and enriched uranium, instead of Canadian technology Candu, which was used as an alternative.
The agreement includes, among other things, that China provides 85% of funding for work, estimated at $8.3 billionalthough the authorities of the state-owned nucleoelectric company, which is responsible for the operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants, they negotiate for Chinese banks to cover 100% of the costs† The construction of Atucha III would take 99 months (just over eight years). Repayment would begin once it is in operation and would be extended for 12 years.
China has 54 nuclear power plants in operation in its country and is building another 15. Anyway, Outside of its territory, Chinese technology was tested only in Pakistan.† Argentina would be the second country to export the Hualongo One reactor.
“We know Argentina is working on the design of a smaller reactor, the Caremand we would love to see them build that instead [de la central nuclear con tecnología China]but it is a decision of Argentina. We are only communicating with the Argentine government about some of the concerns we have about the quality of China’s security control. It’s a warning to our worries”, emphasized the official, who chose the visit to our country as her first international outing after two years of the pandemic.
Ganzer pointed to nuclear power as an important tool to combat climate change and in that sense he indicated that small reactors, like the one Argentina is designing, are the future. †We believe that small reactors can be a significant power multiplier in aiding climate change. All countries are looking for clean energy and many are focusing on renewable energy sources, which are very good, such as solar, wind and hydraulic energy, but they are not consistent, because the sun doesn’t always shine. The energy matrix needs base power and we think small reactors could be the solution for part of Latin America† We want to work with Argentina to deliver these reactors to the rest of the region. Maybe the one that designs Argentina or one of us or another country,” he said.
The official highlighted Argentina’s leadership in the nuclear sector and illustrated this in: Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)† †They must be very proud of Rafael Grossi. We very much appreciate your efforts to ensure the nuclear safety of the reactors, in particular the Chernobyl reactor., where we are very concerned about Russia’s takeover of those operations. There are international rules to maintain order, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical Weapons Treaty and the Multilateral Control Treaties. But Russia didn’t care. We are very concerned about the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons. We are closely monitoring the situation, but we hope it doesn’t come to that“, he pointed.
Argentina and the United States have more than 40 years of nuclear energy relationship. The country was the first in all of Latin America to build the first factory, Atucha I, which was commissioned in 1974† Twenty years ago, the Joint Permanent Committee for Cooperation in Nuclear Energy (Jscmec) was established between the two countries. “Americans like abbreviations. We hold these meetings once a year and we alternate the place. The last time we met in the United States, in 2019. Then the last two meetings were suspended because of Covid and this year it was our turn in Argentina. He had a delegation of 45 people who wanted to come, we had to cut them off. Everyone wanted to be there because it’s a very important relationship. Argentina is a leader in nuclear energy and nuclear safety”he noted.
Finally, he again made clear the warning about the construction of the nuclear power plant with Chinese technology. “Most importantly, nuclear power is not the same as building a new factory, there are a lot of safety and protection concerns that come with it, it requires regulation, expertise, special training, and we hope to work with Argentina to share this information and capacity in other Latin American countries. Argentina is the leader in the region and we would love to work with her to help other countries build that infrastructure.so that when the small reactors are ready for commercialization and export, the countries in the region can buy them, operate them and have clean energy in their arrays,” he concluded.