The Development Bank of Latin America has issued its first loan for a nuclear project to support the refurbishment and licence extension of Argentina's Embalse nuclear power plant.
The loan was announced on 19 March by the president of the bank, Enrique Garcia, and the Argentinean minister of planning, public investment and services, Julio De Vido.
Amounting to $240 million, it will help Nucleoelectrica Argentina SA (NA-SA) in refurbishing the Candu pressurized heavy-water reactor at Embalse. This means replacing the pressure tubes, installing new steam generators, new control systems and increasing its power output by 35 MWe to around 635 MWe net in the process. The work could begin this November.
The major project is worth about $1.3 billion in total, and should allow Embalse to continue generating for a further 25 years. The reactor has provided about 4% of Argentinean electricity since start-up in 1983, which NA-SA said meets the needs of 3-4 million people. Contracts worth over $440 million were signed with Candu Energy in 2011.
The project is part of an Argentinean nuclear plan launched in 2006 in which the two other main parts are to complete Atucha II (now in the commissioning phase) and to develop the CAREM design for an integrated and simplified pressurized water reactor by building a 27 MWe prototype version. Beyond this, the government has been talking to a wide range of international reactor vendors to supply further nuclear power units.
As well as generating electricity, Embalse also produces cobalt-60 for uses in medicine, industry and food irradiation worldwide. In Candu reactors this can be done by using replacing certain stainless steel components with versions made from cobalt, which is converted to cobalt-60 by radiation from the reactor's operation. These parts can be removed about every two years for processing by a specialist.