Nucleoeléctrica Argentina announced on 4 January that the Embalse nuclear plant, a Candu 6 pressurised heavy water reactor, had returned to service following extensive refurbishment, which would extend its operating life for another 30 years.

Embalse,  in the province of Córdoba,  entered commercial operation in 1984 and was closed for the extended upgrading outage at the end of 2015. Nucleoeléctrica Argentina president and director of the life extension project Omar Semmoloni said investment in the development of the nuclear industry was “fully justified”. He added: “We have shown that with clear objectives it is possible to carry out activities that allow us technological development and innovation.”

The plant will start delivering power to the grid gradually until it reaches its full capacity of 683MWe, which is 6% more than its previous size. The modernisation work included reactor retubing, replacing the steam generators and the capacity uprate. Embalse is the third Candu 6 reactor to undergo a full refurbishment, after Wolsong 1 in South Korea and Point Lepreau in Canada.

Argentina’s three operating nuclear units – Atucha 1 and 2 and Embalse are all pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) with total generating capacity of 1627 MWe. They provide about 10% of Argentina’s electricity. Argentina is also building a domestically-designed and developed 25MWe small pressurised water reactor – CAREM –  at a site adjacent to the Atucha plant, in Buenos Aires Province.

The refurbishment work began on 31 December  2015 and was expected to take two years, but work was delayed by a year by political and financial issues.

The decision to proceed with the Embalse extension was taken during the presidency of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. In November 2009, the National Congress declared works of national interest through Law 26,566. In 2010, a contract was signed with IMPSA, by Enrique Pescarmona, for the construction of the steam generators that the firm delivered in August 2016. In 2013, a full-scope simulator was installed at Embalse, an exact and full-scale replica of the main operations control room, which was used in the training of the staff of the plant and as an engineering tool. That same year, a loan from the CAF -Banco de Desarrollo de América Latina- was obtained for $240 million.