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Cablegate: Argentina Confirms Plans to Expand Nuclear Power

VZCZCXYZ0003
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #1906 2362041
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 242041Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5667
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 5453
RHEBAAA/DOE WASHDC
RUEANFA/NRC WASHDC
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA 0147

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 001906

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/BSC AND ISN/NESS
DOE FOR HE-1 AND HE-23
NRC FOR OIP AND COMMISSIONER MERRIFIELD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KNNP ENRG IAEA OTRA PREL ECON AR
SUBJECT: ARGENTINA CONFIRMS PLANS TO EXPAND NUCLEAR POWER
PROGRAM

REF: A. BUENOS AIRES 1888

B. BUENOS AIRES 01227 AND PREVIOUS

1. (U) This message is sensitive but unclassified, and not
for Internet distribution.

2. (U) President Nestor Kirchner presided over a ceremony
August 23 at which Planning Minister Julio De Vido announced
that Argentina was going to expand its nuclear power program
and reactivate a dormant uranium enrichment facility. The
announcement, which had been expected (Ref A), described four
pillars upon which Argentina's enhanced nuclear energy
capabilities would rest. To wit: The GOA plans to finish
construction of the approximately 700MW Atucha II nuclear
reactor in Buenos Aires province; start design and
feasibility studies on a possible fourth reactor (Argentina
currently has two functional nuclear power plants); extend
the life of the Embalse reactor in Cordoba Province, which
had been scheduled to cease operations in 2011; and reopen a
uranium enrichment facility in the town of Pilcaniyeu. De
Vido also said that the GOA would resume production of heavy
water at a plant in Neuquen Province, with a goal of
producing 600 tons in three years.

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3. (U) Conspicously absent from De Vido's announcement was
any mention of Argentina signing an Additional Protocol to
the NPT (Ref A). De Vido took pains, however, to reassure
the audience that the Argentine nuclear program's designs
were wholly peaceful, that it would be totally transparent,
and that it would operate under strict IAEA safeguards.

4. (SBU) A less-widely commented upon aspect of the GOA
announcement was the revelation that Argentine nuclear
engineers had arrived at a proprietary, self-contained design
for a nuclear power plant. The design shown to the public
was listed as producing an output of only 25MW, but on August
24 GOA Secretary of Science and Technology Tulio del Bono
told Emboff that the design can easily be modified to
generate 100MW to 300MW of power. Del Bono explained that
Argentina was pinning its export hopes on the new design,
which it calls CAREM. The idea is that the CAREM design will
find its niche in a nuclear power plant market that has a
dearth of mid-sized competition. Argentina hopes to sell the
design as a power solution for isolated areas that are not
part of a larger power grid.
MATERA

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