Argentina Exports Reactor to Australia and Ratifies its Nuclear Plan

(Picture: Atucha I and Atucha II nuclear plants in Lima, Buenos Aires province) The inauguration of a nuclear reactor built in Argentina destined to investigation-aims in Sidney a few days ago served the Argentine government as a chance to ratify its Nuclear Plan and announce that "in the next 25 years, 5000 megawatts should be of nuclear origin" in the country. Even though the reactor exported is supposed to serve for educational purposes and to produce radioisotopes for medicine and industrial use, it served as a support sign for the industry and especially for INVAP, the company that created it. The cooperation agreement with Australia had been signed by the Senate in 2001 but approved only three years later by the Deputies Chamber, principally due to Greenpeace pressure against the possibility that future nuclear propellant components had to come back to the country to be processed (that alternative, informs Clarin newspaper, was out of question after September 11th, since the US now requests all these elements), but also because of a political debate about whether the country was going to keep a high profile nuclear plan after Carlos Menem (previous president) reduced the resources of the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA). The actual government promised to re-launch the industry and developed the Nuclear Plan last year, which includes finishing the natural-uranium nuclear-central Atucha II (a project initiated in the late 80s and questioned by Greenpeace) and the building of a fourth plant. According to the website InfoRegion, during its Sidney tour the Federal Planning Minister, Julio De Vido, confirmed: "Atucha II will be concluded in 2010 and we're starting with the fourth central this year. In 2012 we'll also have in operation the CAREM reactor, which could generate up to 250 megawatts".

Atucha II should increase the country's capacity in 745 megawatts, but is strongly questioned by Greenpeace. "Every buck spent in Atucha II would have represented double electric generation if invested in Aeolian energy", said Juan Carlos Villalonga, campaign director for that organization, in 2004. According to him, the Aeolian local industry has an enormous future and could generate superior investments and jobs than nuclear power.

However, De Vido Minister claimed last Saturday that "In the next 25 years, 5000 megawatts should be of nuclear origin" in Argentina. That means the nuclear contribution to the electric system should go from the actual 6 percent to 27 percent, as InfoRegion informs. That site also states that the Minister said the decision to go nuclear was taken due to fossil fuels high prices and the inexistence of waterfalls to build new hydroelectric centrals.

Nuclear power is highly efficient, but produces hazardous radiation waves and waste. We've had plenty pro and con opinions about it in TreeHugger: as our very own Tim McGee points here, nuclear wouldn't be as bad with materials like thorium instead of uranium (not the Argentine case, unfortunately). For other opinions, visit Lloyd's survey and find out what our readers think about it. ::Original story by Clarin newspaper ::INVAP ::CNEA ::Nuclear Plan Announcement (Spanish)