China to Invest $8 Billion in Argentine Nuclear Power Plant

A technician works at the construction site of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) on November 21, 2014 in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, southern France. The ITER nuclear fusion project, based at the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) research center of Cadarache in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, was set up by the EU (which has a …
ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty

The governments of China and Argentina finalized an agreement on Tuesday to build a nuclear plant in Argentina based on Chinese technology and backed by $8 billion worth of Chinese financing, World Nuclear News (WNN) reported on Wednesday.

The nuclear power plant will be reportedly constructed near the town of Lima, which is located in Buenos Aires province roughly 60 miles northwest of the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina’s national capital. The energy facility will utilize China’s “Hualong One technology” which is based on an “HPR1000 reactor” that uses “enriched uranium as fuel and light water as coolant and moderator, with a rated gross power of 1200 MWe and an initial life of 60 years,” according to WNN.

The state-owned China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) signed a contract with the state-owned Nucleoelectrica Argentina S.A. to build the Atucha III nuclear project on February 1 through a virtual ceremony.

Beijing and Buenos Aires have been working to finalize the Atucha III nuclear deal since it was first negotiated in 2015 by the left-wing administration of former Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. The nuclear project suffered a number of setbacks under the subsequent administration of former Argentine President Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) before Fernandez de Kirchner returned to power in 2019 as vice president of Argentina.

“In 2015, the Macri government reviewed and downsized the agreement to purchase a single one gigawatt Hualong-1 reactor, with the PRC [People’s Republic of China] providing USD $8 billion of the financing for the USD $12 billion project,” Global Americans recalled in February 2021.

Global Americans is a New York City-based think tank that launched in 2015 with funding provided by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Argentina’s Atucha III nuclear plant will be the second energy facility based on “Hualong One technology” built outside of China, as Beijing already established such a plant in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2015.

Sun Qin, the president of China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC), said in 2016 Beijing hoped to build “30 nuclear power units in countries involved with the Belt and Road Initiative [BRI] by 2030.”

“The CNNC has reached bilateral agreements on nuclear energy cooperation with countries including Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Britain, France and Jordan,” Sun said at the time.

The CNNC chief referred to China’s BRI, which is a global infrastructure development scheme Beijing uses to spread its economic and political influence worldwide.

“Though Argentina has not yet formally joined the BRI, Argentinian officials have reported publicly that Buenos Aires has already decided to endorse the initiative and is waiting for the right moment to do so,” the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace observed in December 2021.

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