China invests $2b in Argentina's nuclear power plant

Updated: 2014-09-22 04:17

By ZHANG FAN in Sao Paulo(China Daily Latin America)

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China invests $2b in Argentina's nuclear power plant

An interior view of Atucha II, the third nuclear power plant of Argentina. [Photo/Xinhua]

China will invest $2 billion in the construction of Argentina's fourth nuclear power station, another gesture of support by China for the Latin American country mired in a continuing debt crisis.

"The cooperation is important for Argentina, especially in this moment that it is facing difficulties in financing itself abroad," said Roberto Luis Troster, an Argentine professor and also the former chief economist for the Brazilian Banks Federation. "Argentina is facing a slowdown this year, and might enter a recession. China's cooperation will surely mitigate its effects."

According to agreements signed on Sept 4 in Beijing, China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) will provide assistance that includes technology, service and machinery, while Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA (NASA), a state-owned company, will be in charge of building and operating the 800-megawatt power station named Atucha 3.

Argentina owns three nuclear power plants, with the first one - Atuchal1 - built in 1974 just northwest of the capital city of Buenos Aires. The new power plant will be based in the same area.

Brazil and Argentina are the only Latin American countries that own nuclear power plants. Argentina encouraged the development of nuclear power for civilian use and established the national Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) in 1950.

German company Kraftwerk Union (KWU)-Siemens Power Generation helped in the construction of Atucha 1 and Atucha II, with nuclear power plant, Embalse, built by Canada Ltd (AECL) and Italimpanti from Italy.

The three plants provide 10 percent of the country's total electricity and the government hopes nuclear power can be a part of "an expansion in generating capacity to meet rising demand", according to Argentinian Nuclear Energy.

The government is negotiating with China, Russian, the United States, France and South Korea for the construction of a fifth nuclear power plant.

China and Argentina signed a series of agreements during Chinese President Xi Jingping's state visit to Argentina, including two for major investments in infrastructure construction, which are expected to increase the employment rate and stimulate the economy.

"The first commercial agreement between Argentina and China was in 1972, but only recently did the partnership between the two countries intensify, with benefit to both sides, creating positive synergies," said Troster.

China's investment in Argentina's nuclear power project is one of a series of international agreements for China's nuclear sector.

Karachi Nuclear Power Complex was officially initiated last November and is China's largest energy investment in Pakistan. CNNC will be in charge of the construction of two reactors and the project is scheduled to provide 2,200 watts of electricity when completed in 2019.

During Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron last December in Beijing, the two countries agreed to strengthen cooperation on nuclear power. Cameron welcomed Chinese companies to invest in Britain's nuclear power projects.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault also agreed to cooperate with China to "jointly develop the nuclear power market of a third country" during his visit last year. "China's nuclear power's 'going global' will greatly promote the 'going global' of the advanced energy technology and equipment as a whole," said Ye Qizhen, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and also an expert on nuclear reactors and nuclear-power engineering.