The Atucha III nuclear power plant will be constructed at the existing Atucha nuclear power station in Argentina. Image courtesy of Mrcukilo.
Nucleoelectrica Argentina (NA-SA) owns and operates the Atucha nuclear power station. Image courtesy of Lebrov.
China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) was contracted to build the Atucha III nuclear power plant in February 2022. Image courtesy of China National Nuclear Corporation.

Atucha III is a 1.2GW nuclear power plant planned to be built at the existing Atucha nuclear power complex located in Lima, in the Buenos Aires province of Argentina.

Owned and operated by state-owned Nucleoelectrica Argentina (NA-SA), Atucha is the country’s first nuclear power generation facility and has been operational since 1974.

Estimated to cost £6bn ($8bn), the Atucha III nuclear power plant will use Hualong One pressurised water reactor (HPR1000) technology designed in China.

NA-SA signed a contract with Chinese state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to construct the third reactor unit of the Atucha nuclear power station in February 2022. It followed a strategic nuclear co-operation agreement signed between China and Argentina in February 2015.

Construction works on the project are expected to start by the end of 2022. Upon commissioning, Atucha III is expected to generate ten billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity displacing 3.12 million tonnes (Mt) of coal consumption a year.

Location and site details

The Atucha III nuclear power plant will be constructed within the existing Atucha nuclear power station site that houses the operational Atucha I and II nuclear power plants.

The Atucha nuclear power complex is located on the right bank of the Parana de las Palmas River in Lima, in Zarate district, 100km away from the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Atucha III reactor details

The Atucha III nuclear power plant will be equipped with a Hualong One (HPR1000) pressured water reactor (PWR), which will have a gross power output of 1,200MW and an initial useful life of 60 years.

Hualong One is the third-generation pressurised water reactor technology jointly developed by CNNC and the China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) to compete with the Westinghouse AP1000 and Framatome’s European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) technology.

Three Hualong One reactor units had started operating as of January 2022. They include units five and six of the Fuqing nuclear power plant in the Fujian province of China and the second unit of the Karachi nuclear power plant (KANUPP) in Pakistan.

Fuqing-5 entered commercial operations in January 2021, whereas Fuqing-6 was connected to the grid in January 2022. KANUPP-2 commenced commercial operations in May 2021.

Atucha will be the second overseas location to use Hualong One reactor technology after Pakistan.

Contractors involved

CNNC and its overseas nuclear project platform China Zhongyuan Engineering Corporation (CZEC) were awarded a turnkey engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract by NA-SA for the Atucha II nuclear power plant in February 2022.

Atucha I and Atucha II nuclear power plants details

The 362MW Atucha I and the 745MW Atucha II nuclear power plants have been operational since June 1974 and June 2016, respectively. Atucha I was the first nuclear power plant to be built and operated in Latin America.

Both the plants are equipped with German-designed KWU pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR) supplied by Siemens.

Construction of Atucha I started in June 1968 and the plant was connected to the grid in March 1974.

ENACE, a joint venture of CNEA and Siemens, started the construction of Atucha II in 1982. The project was, however, stalled due to lack of funding and outdated technology of the original design in 1994.

The construction was restarted as part of the Argentinian Government’s $3.5bn strategic plan in 2006. The assembly works were completed in 2011 and the plant achieved its first criticality in June 2014.