Argentina to review nuclear deals with China

6 April 2016

Argentina's President Mauricio Macri defended the "peaceful use of nuclear energy" at the global Nuclear Security Summit Washington, DC. "Much can be achieved in the realm of nuclear security, without affecting its peaceful use," he said. Macri told the summit that Argentina offered a model whereby the domestic production of uranium isotopes could be made safer by using lower enrichment levels in the reactor fuel. "Argentina is consolidating a restructuring process in which all our working reactors operate with low-enriched uranium," he said, adding that "although it has been argued that this reduction could hinder nuclear activities, the case of Argentina shows that it's possible. Argentina today is a country free of highly enriched uranium."

Macri has promised to review all the nuclear deals signed with China by former President Cristina Fern√°ndez de Kirchner's government. Bloomberg reported that the Argentine government is asking China to revise a nuclear reactor accord signed by the previous administration last year. It is also seeking uranium providers from the US ahead of resuming output, Bloomberg said, citing two people with knowledge of the situation. Resuming uranium output, which was halted in 1997, is a pending, said an Energy and Mining Ministry official, who asked not to be named. Argentina, which has three nuclear power reactors, is building a fourth unit and has plans for a fifth using Chinese financing. Argentina now imports uranium from countries such as Russia and Kazakhstan for its own use as well as to export it after enrichment to countries such as Brazil.

The original accord needs to be revised because it "included mistakes" such as China having the exclusive right to find providers to supply uranium, the two sources reportedly said. The working of the accord did not allow US companies to participate.

Also during the summit, an unidentified US listed company signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with UrAmerica Argentina SA, which owns an uranium mine in Argentina, according to one of Bloomberg's sources. The MOU would be worth $150m if a final deal is reached and would include a technology transfer agreement in which the US company would supply uranium and teach UrAmerica production methods. "The only thing I can say is UrAmerica will be able to produce uranium in Argentina in 2019," Omar Adra, UrAmerica CEO told Bloomberg in a telephone interview.

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