China to finance Argentina’s nuclear plants

18 May 2017

Argentine President Mauricio Macri signed cooperation agreements with China worth $15bn on 17 May including a $12.5bn agreement for the construction and financing of two nuclear power reactors (Argentina’s fourth and fifth). The agreements were signed in Beijing during Macri's state visit to China, where he participated earlier in an international meeting on the Belt and Road global infrastructure initiative promoted by the Chinese government.

Argentina currently has three operating power reactors – one at the Embalse NPP (a Candu) and two at Atucha NPP (both pressurised heavy water reactors - PHWRs). China’s long term-loan for the construction of the two new reactors is for 20 years plus an additional eight, which will be repaid when the plant begins generating, according to Argentina's Nuclear energy deputy secretary, Julian Gadano. The interest rate is estimated in the range of 4.5%. According to the plan, Atucha III, Argentina's fourth nuclear plant will be constructed in the province of Buenos Aires, close to Atucha II and will produce 745MWe. It will be another PHWR with works scheduled to begin in 2018. Gadano said the project is expected to take seven years and to cost $6bn.

The fifth nuclear unit is expected to be a 1,150MWe light water reactor and will reportedly be located in the province of Río Negro. Alberto Weretilneck, governor of the Rio Negro province of Alberto Negro, announced construction of the reactor unit following confirmation of China's financing of the project.  

The media quoted “sources in the sector” as saying that the fifth plant would use Chinese technology.

Currently discussion on the project is continuing, with Argentina seeking to sign separate agreements for the two plants. China, however, is insisting on a single contract, to guarantee completion of the second plant. "This is a large-scale and complicated project. It has to go through different procedures (project study, commercial contract, financing ...), we have to do it little by little," said the director general Of the Latin American department of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, Zhu Qingqiao. 

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