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IAEA Meeting Discusses Nuclear Power Options in Latin America

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Participants of the IAEA Technical Meeting on Sharing Experience with Expanding and New Nuclear Power Programmes in Latin America next to the steam generator of Argentina's Atucha 2 nuclear power reactor, 5 June 2015. (M.Ferrari/IAEA)

Latin American countries considering the introduction of nuclear power got important insights earlier this month into the opportunities and challenges of developing new nuclear power projects from countries already using nuclear power.

Policy makers, project developers and other experts from Bolivia, Chile and Peru attended a regional meeting in Buenos Aires, along with experts from Argentina and Brazil. There are seven nuclear power reactors in operation in Latin America: three in Argentina, two in Brazil and two in Mexico.

Participants learned about Argentina’s nuclear power programme and also discussed national energy policies and the status of nuclear power development in their countries. The meeting included a one-day visit to Atucha, a nuclear power plant some 100 kilometres northwest of the Argentinian capital.

“For Bolivia, which is starting to develop nuclear power, this meeting has been an excellent opportunity,” said Hernan Vera Ruiz, Nuclear Programme Coordinator at Bolivia’s Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy. “We gained insights into Argentina’s nuclear power programme and the roles and responsibilities of the different institutions involved. We also learned from other newcomer countries which face challenges similar to those of my country. The technical tour to the Atucha nuclear power plant was interesting and informative.”

The participants are now considering bilateral activities and also found that there is tremendous room for cooperation in Latin America, added the IAEA’s Marta Ferrari, the Scientific Secretary of the meeting.

Several years ago, Uruguay and Chile started exploring the option of introducing nuclear power, and, more recently, Bolivia also announced its interest in including it in its national energy mix. The experts attending the IAEA Technical Meeting on Sharing Experience with Expanding and New Nuclear Power Programmes in Latin America, also agreed to strengthen regional networking and information exchange.

“The IAEA works closely with operating and newcomer countries, provides guidance and advice on how to develop the infrastructure needed for nuclear power,” Ferrari said. “It also acts as a hub where Member States can meet, share experience and build networks.”

At the event, several Argentinian organizations provided an insight into the country’s nuclear power programme. These included the Ministry of Federal Planning, the Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA), the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ARN) and Nucleoeléctrica Argentina (NA-SA), the national nuclear operator, which is responsible for all new nuclear power plant projects in the country.

Argentinian participants underlined the importance their country attaches to regional cooperation in the nuclear sector, a driver for economic development. In 2006, the country’s government adopted a nuclear energy policy that included the development of three new power plant units: NA-SA signed agreements with the China National Nuclear Corporation to develop a third and a fourth unit at the Atucha site, while another agreement was signed with Russia to explore the possibility of a fifth unit at another site.

In the city of San Carlos de Bariloche, CNEA runs the Bariloche Atomic Centre, which is dedicated to research, education and human resource development, and has been training experts from different countries in the region for many years. As for ARN, it has built an international network for learning and cooperating with other regulatory bodies. NA-SA, for its part, places much importance on communication, building a strong relationship with the local community, involving and educating local stakeholders and running regular information campaigns.

Brazil’s nuclear power programme includes two units at Angra in operation, with another one under construction. Its national plan until 2030 includes scenarios to add nuclear generation capacity in a range between 4000 and 8000 MW. Site selection is underway.

Bolivia’s Ministry of Energy has developed a comprehensive national nuclear programme that includes three main projects: deploying a cyclotron and increasing the use of nuclear applications in medicine in the short term; building a small research reactor (30 kW) to foster science and technology in the medium term, with plans to sign a contract in the near future and start operations in 2020; and a nuclear power programme for the long term, which is in the initial phase of development.

Chile expressed interest in nuclear power some 10 years ago and has already prepared pre-feasibility studies. Last year, the country’s government launched a national energy agenda as a forum to discuss its future energy policy. In addition, Chile’s National Energy Commission is currently performing energy studies.

As for Peru, its national energy policy has the objective of increasing electricity production two- to four-fold by 2030. The country’s energy policy emphasizes low carbon emissions and energy sustainability, including nuclear power as an option. 

Last update: 26 Jul 2017

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