IAEA concludes LTO safety review at Atucha nuclear plant

3 December 2021

Atucha nuclear plant (Photo credit: NNSA)An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safety Aspects of Long Term Operation (Pre-SALTO) follow up review mission team of experts on 26 November completed a review of long term operational safety at unit 1 of the Atucha nuclear power plant in Argentina at the request of the Argentinian government.

It focused on aspects essential to the safe Long Term Operation (LTO) of unit 1, a 362MWe pressurised heavy water reactor that began operation in 1974. Its current operating licence expires in 2024. Atucha unit 2 (745MWe), which started operation in May 2016, and was not part of the review.

Atucha NPP, located 100km north-west of Buenos Aires, is operated by Nucleoelectrica Argentina SA (NA-SA). The operator is currently preparing to submit a licence renewal application to the Argentinian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ARN) to extend the operating lifetime of Atucha 1 by 20 years.  

The SALTO team comprising three experts from France, Pakistan, Sweden, and one IAEA staff member reviewed the improvements in preparedness, organisation and programmes related to LTO against the IAEA safety standards, following up the suggestions by the previous Pre-SALTO reviews in 2016, and 2018.

“The team observed that NA-SA followed the recommendations of the Pre-SALTO mission in 2018 to make significant steps in improving ageing management and preparation for safe LTO,” said Gabor Petofi, SALTO team leader and IAEA Senior Nuclear Safety Officer. “The team encourages the plant management to complete the already commenced tasks and address the remaining findings from the 2018 mission and implement all activities for a safe LTO.”

The team concluded the plant had:

  • Completed the assessment of electrical, instrumentation and control systems and components for LTO.
  • Completed a comprehensive condition assessment of the plant structures, systems and components.
  • Completed the identification of all components that need ageing assessment for LTO.

The team noted that further work is necessary by the plant to:

  • Improve organisational arrangements and processes to ensure timely implementation of all activities required for safe LTO.
  • Fully implement the proactive technological obsolescence programme.
  • Develop a long term human resource plan for the entire LTO period.

The plant management expressed a determination to address the areas identified for further improvement and to continue cooperation with the IAEA. “With the support of the IAEA, we can further improve our preparedness for safe LTO and implement ageing management effectively,” said Atucha site manager Alejandro Sanda. “The results of this follow up mission show what remains to be done in order to fully align our LTO arrangements with the IAEA safety standards.”

The team provided a draft report to the plant management and ARN both of which will have an opportunity to make factual comments on the draft. A final report will be submitted to the plant management, ARN and the Argentinian Government within three months.

Photo: Atucha nuclear plant (Photo credit: NNSA)

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