Argentina on 1 December signed a strategic document with Russia on cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy.
The document, essentially a framework agreement, was signed by director general of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom Alexei Likhachev and the Energy Secretary of Argentina’s Ministry of State Treasury Javier Iguasel in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the President of Argentina, Mauricio Macri.
Possible cooperation covers projects for the construction of large nuclear power plants and smaller plants including Russian design floating NPPs. The agreement also envisages joint implementation of projects in third countries, such as the construction of research centres including the development of human resources. It also opens the way for joint research and training. A “road map” was signed on the implementation of specific Russian-Argentine projects, but no details were given.
Following talks with Macri, Putin said: "I talked in detail with the President about the importance of deepening industrial cooperation, the implementation of large bilateral projects. In this context, we discussed the issue of building on the territory of Argentina and a nuclear power plant using Russian technologies." He added that the strategic document would “create the necessary conditions for the implementation of existing large-scale joint plans in this crucial area”.
The new agreement followed an intergovernmental agreement in July 2014 on cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy, which replaced an agreement that expired in December 2012. The text of this document was only published in November on the official portal of legal information, and its was set to enter into force on 23 November. It creates a legal basis for the implementation by the parties of new joint projects in the field of the peaceful nuclear energy.
According this agreement potential areas of cooperation include design, construction, operation and decommissioning of nuclear plants and research reactors, including water desalination facilities. It also includes support of the nuclear fuel cycle, radioactive waste management, radiation protection and isotope production. In April 2015, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed establishing a "framework for cooperation" for construction of a 1200MWe VVER unit in Argentina while JSC Rusatom Overseas signed a preliminary project development agreement with Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA on construction of a reactor.
In November, Russia’s Ambassador to Buenos Aires, Dmitry Feoktistov, said the proposed strategic partnership would mention "various areas of cooperation”, adding: "Russia is ready to bring a ready-made project and its own financing to Argentina. We can build such a power plant, operate it and sell electricity to Argentine partners at a certain fixed price."
Another MOU was signed in January on uranium exploration and mining in Argentina. It aims to promote cooperation in uranium exploration and mining, with a particular focus on the in-situ recovery method of uranium extraction. On 3 December, Lihaschev said on the sidelines of the G20 that Argentina had asked Rosatom to “localise” Russian technology for the extraction of uranium. “Colleagues are asking us to share our technology and place our competencies here. We are ready to go for such a localisation, but, naturally, within the framework of our interest,” he stressed.
Argentina currently has three operating nuclear power units with a total generating capacity of 1627MWe, all pressurised heavy water reactors. Units 1 and 2 at the Atucha NPP (based on a German design) and the single unit Embalse NPP (a Candu reactor) provide about 10% of the country's electricity. A prototype 25 MWe small pressurised water reactor - CAREM - is under construction at a site adjacent to the Atucha plant.
The agreement with Russia was something of a surprise as the head of Argentina’s national investment agency told Reuters in November that Argentina and China aimed to close within days a deal worth up to $8 billion to build a fourth nuclear power unit in Argentina. However, no announcement about this was made at the G20 summit, although Argentine media reported that talks are continuing. China had earlier identified a potential site, at Atucha, for its Chinese-design Hualong reactor.