Executive Intelligence Review


Argentina’s Heavy-Water Plant in Danger of Closing, as Nuclear Sector Is Jeopardized

July 9, 2018 (EIRNS)—The decision by Argentine President Mauricio Macri to cancel construction of the country’s fourth nuclear reactor, Atucha III, and postpone construction of a fifth until 2022, is jeopardizing the continued operation of the Industrial Heavy Water Plant (PIAP) in the Patagonian province of Neuquén. PIAP is one of the most important such facilities worldwide, and is a jewel among Argentina’s many scientific and technological achievements.

Atucha III was to have been based on Candu technology, requiring heavy water. Now, PIAP is almost paralyzed, jeopardizing the jobs of 400 highly-skilled workers, and hundreds more who are employed indirectly. This is just one more element in Macri’s all-out assault on Argentina’s nuclear and high-tech capabilities, whose destruction the British Empire has always sought. Aside from PIAP workers, another 5,000 jobs are jeopardized as a result of Atucha III’s cancellation.

Macri claimed his decision was based on the country’s financial crisis and need to cut back on infrastructure spending—which the International Monetary Fund ordered as a conditionality for its $50 billion standby loan. But the China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC), which was to have built Atucha III, generously offered to provide 85% of the total $9 billion in financing, with an eight-year grace period before loans would have had to been repaid. Adrian Delao, secretary-general of the union of workers employed by NASA, the state-run company that builds reactors, had told the daily Canal Abierto back on May 29 that Macri’s decision was “purely political, directly linked to the government’s relations with the IMF. To build Atucha III, Argentina wouldn’t have spent a single peso.”

The Argentine Senate’s Mining, Energy and Fuel committees met with representatives of PIAP’s workers on July 4 to discuss other possible uses of the heavy water plant, such as production of nitrogenized fertilizer based on use of urea. Julian Gadano, the Energy Ministry’s Undersecretary for Nuclear Energy, told the committees that in the immediate future there is no market for heavy water, El Periódico de Rincón reported July 5. Neuquén’s Energy Minister Alejandro Monteiro warned that PIAP’s closing would negatively impact the operations of the Engineering Services Company, which provides skilled personnel to PIAP, as well as the state-sector INVAP company, which was involved in PIAP’s operations.