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Argentina's nuclear regulator Autoridad Regulatoria Nuclear (ARN) has issued a licence to Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA (NASA) for the commercial operation of unit 2 at the Atucha NPP (also known as the President Néstor Kirchner NPP). The 745MWe pressurized heavy water reactor, located in the city of Lima, Zárate, 115km from Buenos Aires, has been operating on a conditional licence since December 2015. ARN at that time set a deadline of 29 May 2016 for the operator to meet all the conditions for a full licence. After a programme of testing, training and other required actions was completed, ARN granted a full operating licence on 26 May.

ARN chairman Nestor Masriera said, "The important thing is that we have completed the licensing process by putting this plant into full operation and have granted an operating licence under well-documented conditions, with the confidence of having on the table all the safety requirements that meet our regulatory standards and international standards."

Atucha 2, ordered in 1979, was a Siemens design, a larger version of unit 1, and construction started in 1981 by a joint venture of the Comision Nacional de Energia Atomica (CNEA) and Siemens-KWU. However, lack of funds caused delays and work was suspended in 1994 when the plant was 81% complete.

In 1994, NASA was set up to take responsibility for NPPs from CNEA, including the construction of Atucha 2. In 2003, plans for completing Atucha 2 were presented to the government. The government announced a $3.5bn strategic plan in August 2006 for the nuclear power sector, including Atucha 2. The unit was effectively completed in September 2011 and first criticality was in June 2014 followed by grid connection. Full power was achieved in February 2015.

Argentina now has three operating nuclear units - Atucha 1 and 2, and the reactor at Embalse - with as total nuclear generating capacity of around 1,627MWe. Argentina's Carem small reactor project should add a further 27MWe by 2018. Talks have been held with both China and Russia on the possible construction of further NPP units.

Date: Tuesday, 07 June 2016
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