Russia and Argentina signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on 24 January to advance uranium exploration and production in Argentina.

The MOU was agreed during a visit by Argentine President Mauricio Macri to Moscow, during which he held talks with President Vladimir Putin. It was signed by Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie for minister of science, technology and productive innovation Lino Barañao and by Uranium One Group President and CEO Vasily Konstantinov as well as by Omar Adra, president of exploration company UrAmerica Argentina SA. The agreement could attract up to $250m in investments and create up to 500 jobs, according to an Argentinian foreign ministry statement.  

"The signing of the memorandum seeks to position Argentina as a global uranium producer in the region and to fully satisfy Argentine demand for this metal from now on until UrAmerica starts its own production and our country gradually becomes self-sufficient in uranium," the ministry said. UrAmerica, a private uranium exploration company, based in Buenos Aires, is working to develop properties it has successfully consolidated in the Province of Chubut in Argentina, surrounding known high-grade deposits and historical mines, as well as properties in Paraguay.

Argentina already generates 5% of its electricity from three pressurised heavy-water nuclear reactors and has a long-established nuclear fuel fabrication industry. It currently imports uranium from various countries including Russia and Kazakhstan for its own use, and for export following enrichment to other markets, including Brazil. The new agreement will help Argentina to achieve "national self-sufficiency in uranium”, a government statement said.

Any uranium extraction will use in-situ recovery (ISR) supported by Canada-based Uranium One, a wholly owned subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, which is the world's fourth-largest uranium producer. Argentina's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said ISR, which does not involve mining, is "the most efficient method due to its low costs and minimal environmental impact, given that it does not require soil removal." Under its agreement with Uranium One, "Argentina would thus pioneer its application in Latin America," it added.

The agreement also reaffirms Rosatom’s commitment to building a nuclear power plant in Argentina, which has plans for the construction of two new nuclear reactors in the second half of this year. The $13bn project will reportedly be financed mostly by Chinese organisations. In a press statement following talks with Macri, Putin said: "Rosatom is proposing a nuclear power plant of Russian design in Argentina based on the latest and safest technological standards."

Russia and Argentina agreed to consider ways to expand cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy in the following areas: the nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear power generation, training and professional development of specialists, the use of nuclear and radiation technologies in medicine, industry and others.

In April 2015, Russia and Argentina signed an MOU establishing a "framework for cooperation" for construction of a 1200MWe VVER unit. Rosatom’s Rusatom Overseas and Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA also signed a preliminary project development agreement on construction of what would be Argentina’s sixth reactor, assuming the Chinese-financed projects go ahead. Also, Russian fuel company TVEL at that time signed two MOUs with the National Atomic Energy Commission of Argentina and the state corporation of the province Rio Negro (Republic of Argentina) INVAP, a designer of world-class research reactors and other nuclear equipment.

It followed an intergovernmental agreement signed in July 2014 on cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy.

Date: Thursday, 25 January 2018
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