The Carem in Argentina is a very important project in developing nuclear energy using small plants.
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Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, toured the facilities where CNEA builds the Argentine Central for Modular Elements (Carem) prototype.
Grossi arrived at the Atucha Nuclear Complex located on the shores of the Paraná River at the height of the Zárate district of Buenos Aires (in Lima) after visiting President Alberto Fernández. With it, he analyzed the potential of Carem to be the protagonist of a market estimated at 300 billion dollars.
Grossi met with President Fernández as part of a visit to the country to participate in some conferences and tour part of the Argentine atomic infrastructure.
The Carem prototype is being built on a site next to the Atucha I and II plants. It will be able to generate 32 Megawatts of Electric Power (MWe), a power capable of supplying a population of 120,000 inhabitants. However, its main objective is to validate the design and engineering of future commercial modules, whose power will be 120 MWe.
During his visit to the Carem project, Grossi was received by the president of the CNEA, Adriana Serquis, and the project manager, Sol Pedre.
The secretary of Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Innovation, Cecilia Nicolini, and the president of Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA, José Luis Antúnez, also participated in the meeting.
Grossi maintained that “there is a huge international demand for small modular reactors, which imply a lower initial demand and can be integrated into a network or installed in isolated places; it is estimated that in the coming years, there will be an investment of 300 billion dollars in the sector and every day different countries in Africa and Latin America express a very marked interest in projects of these characteristics».
“As happened decades ago with conventional reactors, the international market turns to a machine that is proven and working, and Argentina has been working in this direction for decades. In this, he is on the verge of having Carem up and running and using it as the basis for a commercial version with enormous possibilities », he considered.
The diplomat pointed out that “there is a strong global competition in recent years with projects from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and some other countries. But the great differential of the Argentine project is its degree of progress. For this reason, in the conversation this morning with President Alberto Fernández, the need to make this project a reality was emphasized because there is going to be a very large demand that opens up a great field of potential for Argentina.”
“Many years ago, Argentina had, at Invap and CNEA, a group of people who understood the potential of modular reactors and later, as a State, made the decision to carry it forward. I have been working on this issue in the diplomatic field for 40 years, and since I started, people have been talking about it. Today, that the step has been taken and it is so close, we must move forward to make it a reality, “Grossi completed.
The president of the CNEA, Adriana Serkis , affirmed in a dialogue with Télam that “since this is one of the strategic projects for Argentina, the presence of a personality of international relevance from Grossi is very important, who also highlighted Carem as one of the most important projects at a global level in the development of nuclear energy».
«The end of civil works is expected by the end of 2024 due to the brake that construction suffered between 2018 and 2020, which caused a great setback in the calendars. We hope to reach some criticality by the end of 2027 », he estimated.
The official considered that the start-up of Carem “would be the possibility of demonstrating that small modular reactors work and that they work with the particularities that this Argentine design incorporates. It would be a great pride for the country and the possibility of having an exportable product with high added value at a time when Grossi himself tells us that many countries approach him to find out how to access a reactor with these characteristics.”
«In the world, it is thought that small modular reactors are the possibility of accessing safe and efficient energy sources for emerging countries or for territories such as insular ones; in particular, Europe began to see these reactors as an alternative to advance in the reduction goals of carbon emissions by 2050,” added Serquis.
The manager of the Carem project, Sol Pedre, said they have “seventy years of rich nuclear history in which we operate power plants like the ones we have in Atucha. We also export nationally designed research reactors. Within this framework, this is the leap in the quality we are making by building a power plant designed entirely in the country.”
“It is a reactor that has several passive safety systems that do not require human intervention to shut down safely, and although there are about 80 announced modular reactor projects in the world, to date, the only one that has this degree of progress in its construction is Carem, which is more than 70% complete”, he highlighted.
In this regard, he recalled that “although the project was born in the 1980s, it gained real momentum in 2006 with the enactment of the nuclear law, which made it possible to complete the construction of Atucha II, extend the life of the other plants, propose the RA10, which is nearing completion and also the Carem, of which the first concrete was just laid in 2014».
“There is a lot of interest in these reactors because they require less investment than large plants, and we aspire to export them as we do now with radioisotope reactors. For a country like Argentina, which has a large territorial area, these reactors are a solution that allows large cities to be supplied with energy without resorting to extensive wiring, which is also costly and complex to maintain. He analysed that they can also be a tool for industrial poles that require intensive energy».
Regarding Grossi’s visit, he described it as “very important because he has contact with more than 150 countries that make up the IAEA at a time when all the member countries of the organization are looking for this type of product.”
The Secretary for Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Innovation, Cecilia Nicolini, commented that “this is a strategic project for our 2030 climate change adaptation and mitigation plan, which among its lines of work includes the energy transition in which Carem is going play a fundamental role in the transition to a cleaner energy matrix”.
Internationally consolidated as a benchmark of the so-called SMR (Small Modular Reactor), the Carem is a low-power nuclear reactor with a simplified design about traditional plants, allowing it to provide highly rigorous safety standards.
In addition, the SMR allows standardizing a design ‘tailored’ to the needs and possibilities of each country, allowing the construction and operation of the modules in a staggered manner, which reduces the demand for initial capital and makes the financial conditions required by this type more flexible. of investments.
Being one of the SMRs in the world’s most advanced state of construction, the Carem offers versatility and flexibility for various uses, such as supplying energy to isolated populations or industrial poles with high electricity consumption, allowing the design of localized and independent electrical networks of the system. Interconnected.
It is also ideal as a source of electricity supply for seawater desalination plants or hydrogen production, activities that constantly require high consumption.
One of the project’s strategic objectives is that no less than 70% of the supplies, components and services related to the construction of the prototype are provided by Argentine companies certified under the international quality standards supervised by the CNEA.
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