The Pre-Salto (safety aspects of long-term operation) follow up review mission focused on aspects essential to the safe long-term operation (LTO) of Unit 1, a 340-MW pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR) that began commercial operation in 1974. The plant’s current operating licence expires in 2024.
The 693-MW Unit 2, also a PHWR, began commercial operation in May 2016 and was not part of the review.
Atucha, 100 km northwest of Buenos Aires, is operated by Nucleoelectrica Argentina.
The Salto team, comprising three experts from France, Pakistan, Sweden, and one IAEA staff member, reviewed the improvements in preparedness, organisation and programmes related to LTO against the IAEA safety standards, following up the suggestions by the previous pre-Salto reviews in 2016 and 2018.
The team said Nucleoelectrica Argentina had followed the recommendations of the pre-Salto mission in 2018 to make significant steps in improving ageing management and preparation for safe LTO. The operator had completed an assessment of electrical, instrumentation and control systems and components for LTO; completed an assessment of the plant structures, systems and components; and completed the identification of all components that need ageing assessment for LTO.
The team said Nucleoelectrica Argentina needs to improve organisational arrangements and processes to make sure activities required for safe LTO are completed on time. It also needs to develop a long-term human resource plan for the entire LTO period.
Press reports earlier this year said Argentina is planning to build two new nuclear power plants – one with Chinese Hualong One reactor technology and another with Candu technology from Canada.
Argentina’s three existing reactor units providing about 7.5% of its electricity generation, but the government wants to double that in the next 16 years.
In July, Nucleoeléctrica and the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) signed a contract for completion of the reactor building for the country’s prototype Carem-25 small modular nuclear reactor.