Nucleoeléctrica Argentina successfully bid the first tranche of the Public Infrastructure Solidarity Financial Trust NASA IV, aimed at obtaining funds to finance two energy infrastructure works: the life extension of the Atucha I Nuclear Power Plant and the construction of the second dry storage of spent fuel assemblies of the Atucha Site.
Bids for more than 30 million dollars were received for the operation. "This productive investment fills us with enthusiasm, since it allows us to advance in the development of strategic nuclear energy projects for the country, which have a positive impact on the national industrial growth and on the country's contribution to the fight against climate change", said José Luis Antúnez, President of Nucleoeléctrica Argentina.
The execution of these projects will allow maintaining the nuclear participation in the Argentine energy matrix and will ensure the generation of clean and reliable energy for one million people for 20 years.
Likewise, the works for the extension of the useful life of Atucha I will boost employment through the generation of 2,000 jobs required to carry out the tasks foreseen between 2024 and 2026.
Both activities will also provide opportunities for the development of qualified domestic suppliers and will increase the country's technological and industrial capabilities with the potential to be exportable in the near future.
On the other hand, the projects will contribute to achieving the environmental objective of decarbonizing the atmosphere, since nuclear power plants can generate large amounts of energy continuously and without greenhouse gas emissions. For this reason, the contribution of nuclear energy is key both in the fight against climate change and on the road to energy transition.
By way of example, the net generation of the Argentine nuclear power plants during the years 2021 and 2022 saved more than eight million tons of CO2.
The company produces electricity through the operation of the Atucha I, Atucha II and Embalse power plants. The total installed capacity of its three plants is 1,763 MWe.
It is a corporation and its share capital is distributed among the National Ministry of Economy (79%), the National Atomic Energy Commission (20%) and Energía Argentina S.A. (ENARSA) (1%).
Besides operating the plants and commercializing the energy produced in the Wholesale Electricity Market (MEM), it is in charge of the management of projects that ensure the normal operation of its facilities, as well as of those aimed at the eventual construction of future nuclear power plants in the national territory. The activities are subject to the highest safety standards and are supervised through rigorous controls. Nuclear energy contributes to the care of the environment as it does not generate gases (CO2) or particles that cause the greenhouse effect during its operation.
The Atucha I Nuclear Power Plant began the final stage of the process of extending its useful life, after 47 years of operation, a work that will require an investment of 300 million dollars and that will allow extending its operation beyond 2040 with its current 350Mw of generation.
"Atucha I has to stop in 2024 and we needed to start the life extension project now because we have to start manufacturing what has to be replaced", announced the president of Nucleoeléctrica Argentina, José Luis Antúnez, after the project manager was appointed.
In nuclear power plants, the primary source of energy arises from the fission of uranium atom nuclei that takes place in the nuclear reactor. For this reason, nuclear power plants use uranium as fuel, a mineral that is abundant in nature.
Once the fuels reach the maximum degree of use, they are extracted from the reactor core and deposited in pools under high purity water that acts as radiation shielding.
After a certain cooling and radioactive decay time, these elements can be transferred to an interim dry storage system in containers, which in turn are deposited in concrete structures.
According to the current and future energy demand, it is required to increase the storage capacity of spent fuel assemblies, and in this sense temporary dry storage is a technology widely used in several countries. Spain and France, for example, have already designed dry storage systems similar to the typical scheme.
The Dry Storage of Spent Fuel Elements - ASECQ - project at the Atucha I Nuclear Power Plant will consist of a new building attached and integrated to the existing building in the Pile House of this facility, where the spent elements are currently located.
This building will include a silo located below ground level, at 0.50 meters, which will house 2,754 disused fuel assemblies.
The new building will be connected to the new building through an opening in the back wall of the pool area. The extension of the existing overhead crane will be used to transfer groups of spent fuel assemblies in a transport container duly shielded from ionizing radiation to their new storage area, thus preventing these pieces from leaving the controlled area.
A sector of the silo will also be used to store internal components of the irradiated reactor or other elements, such as channels and control rod guide tubes, which currently occupy space in the plant's decay pools.
With this new system, the components can be stored dry while maintaining the same structure and integrity as the rest of the fuel assemblies housed in the basins.