Argentina put on fast track of clean energy

Argentina put on fast track of clean energy

New power plant to ensure nuclear security, stronger ties with China

A plan by the government of Argentina to build a new nuclear power plant with China's help is moving forward after years in limbo. The plant could help ensure its energy security and strengthen its bilateral relationship with Beijing.

Argentina finally plans to begin the construction of a nuclear plant within a year and aims to finish the project by 2028.

Negotiations with China have advanced, and the construction of the 1,200 MW Hualong-1 power plant is expected to start in 2022, Nicolas Malinovsky, an electrical engineer and director of the Energy, Science and Technology Observatory in Argentina, told China Daily.

The plant, to be built in Lima, a city in Buenos Aires Province, is part of a push by the government of President Alberto Fernandez to boost the production of more clean energy at the Atucha Nuclear Complex, 120 kilometers north of the capital Buenos Aires.

The government of Argentina is working on the project through Nucleoelectrica Argentina, a state-owned company that operates three nuclear energy plants.

The government has made the "decision to move forward with the construction of new power plants and reactivate the Argentine nuclear (power) plant," said Malinovsky.

The new plant will cost an estimated $8 billion, with China financing most of the project. China National Nuclear Corporation will be in charge of the project.

"Latin America is a region with great infrastructure investment needs," David Castrillon, research professor at the School of International Relations at Externado University of Colombia, told China Daily. "No single country, nor any single type of financial institution, will be able to fully meet these needs. Instead, a joint effort is required, an effort in which China has an important role to play."

Julian Gadano, former deputy secretary of nuclear energy in Argentina and director of the Nuclear Energy Program at National University of Tres de Febrero, or Unitres, said China has advanced a lot and it is "willing to share and open its doors".

Local data show about 7.5 percent of Argentina's energy comes from nuclear power, 61 percent from fossil fuels, mainly gas, 22 percent from hydropower, and 9.5 percent from wind and solar.

Argentina and China share a common goal of generating more power from alternative sources.

"Chinese participation in clean energy projects in Latin America will grow even more," said Castrillon from Externado University.

Technological progress

"The participation of Chinese companies in the development of safe and sustainable nuclear energy in Latin America is a sign of the country's progress in technology and the important deepening of comprehensive and win-win relations between China and the region," Castrillon said.

China's broad experience in nuclear energy could be key for countries around the world.

In Latin America, Chinese nuclear experience will not only help cope with environmental challenges but also ensure wider access to clean energy.

"Argentina has to create the conditions for a steady increase in power generation, linked to the increase in demand for generation of any kind of energy," said Gadano from Unitres.

"The country has to meet the objectives of (ensuring) energy security, contributing to the mitigation of global warming with clean energy, with a low cost, to ensure access."

Nuclear power in Argentina is much cheaper than other renewable energies. The average cost of nuclear energy last year was $47.3 per megawatt-hour, compared to $73 per megawatt-hour for renewable energy. On the other hand, energy from fossil fuels was cheapest at $35.3 per megawatt-hour in 2020.

"The cost of nuclear energy is competitive with other sources, but for it to have an impact on lowering the cost of energy, the share of nuclear energy in the energy matrix …must be increased," said Malinovsky.

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