Executive Intelligence Review


Stopping Nuclear Plant Construction ‘Cancels Part of Argentina’s Present and Future’

June 4, 2018 (EIRNS)—The above quote in the Argentine Cuyo Noticias website May 24, captures the reaction of the scientific community—and beyond—at the announcement by the Mauricio Macri government that it is cancelling, “for budgetary reasons,” construction of the country’s fourth nuclear reactor, and postponing the fifth, both to have been built by China. This is the IMF at work.

Argentina’s fourth reactor, the 800 MW Atucha III, whose construction was to begin at the end of this year, would have had 85% of its $9 billion cost financed by China, although 70% of its components were to be produced by national companies. According to Infobae May 22, Argentina’s Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie advised Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi of the cancellation of Atucha III during the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Buenos Aires, which Wang reportedly accepted in exchange for a promise that Atucha IV, whose construction would be postponed until 2022, would be built entirely with Chinese technology.

Then-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner signed the contracts with China for these two reactors in 2015. The cancellation is a crushing blow to a nation that is enormously proud of its nuclear energy industry and its impressive related achievements in science and technology. The economic consequences will be devastating. In Zarate, where the Atucha I and II reactors are located, a significant proportion of the population consists of highly skilled workers, involved in upkeep of existing reactors, and who were to help build Atucha III.

Eighty small and medium-sized national companies that were to produce components for the reactors will now be left out of the nuclear market. Furthermore, 400 new nuclear engineers will be left jobless as well, but there are estimates that as many as 1,500 scientists, engineers, and skilled workers could be out of work. An exodus abroad of scientists and engineers, as occurred during the 1990s, is now expected, as one analyst put it who will seek work “on the 50 nuclear reactors being built around the world.”

Another casualty of Macri’s decision could be the Heavy Water Industrial Plant (PIAP) at Arroyito in the Patagonian province of Neuquén, which was to have supplied heavy water to Atucha III, as it was based on the Canadian CANDU technology. Argentina is a leader among the 11 countries in the world capable of producing heavy water, and with Atucha III’s cancellation, PIAP could be closed, leaving 620 engineers, chemists, and skilled technicians unemployed.