the embalse nuclear power plant in argentina has returned to service for another 30 years of operation following completion of upgrade work, nucleoeléctrica argentina announced on 4 january. the embalse plant, which entered commercial operation in 1984, will resume supply of electricity to the national grid "very soon", the company said, following tests at different power levels required before commercial operation can start.
argentina has three operating nuclear power plants, all pressurised heavy water reactors. with total generating capacity of 1627 mwe, the three units - atucha 1 and 2 plus embalse - provide about 10% of the country's electricity.
the embalse plant, which is in the province of córdoba, achieved a first controlled nuclear chain reaction, also known as criticality, at 2:00pm on 4 january. julián gadano, undersecretary of nuclear energy, along with other industry and government officials, witnessed the milestone.
omar semmoloni, president of nucleoeléctrica argentina and director of the life extension project, said investment in the development of the nuclear industry was "fully justified". he added: "we have shown that with clear objectives it is possible to carry out activities that allow us technological development and innovation."
the plant will start delivering power to the grid gradually until it reaches its full capacity of 683 mwe, which is 6% more than its previous capacity. the modernisation work included reactor retubing, replacing the steam generators and the capacity uprate.
the plant completed its first operating cycle on 31 december 2015, the company noted. the international nuclear power community has recognised the plant throughout its history for its "excellent performance", it said, and it has "always been among the top ten in the world ranking of nuclear power plants".
embalse is the third candu 6 reactor to undergo a full refurbishment, after wolsong 1 in south korea and point lepreau in canada.
a prototype domestically designed and developed 25 mwe small pressurised water reactor - carem - is under construction at a site adjacent to the atucha plant, in buenos aires province.