Argentina adds dry fuel storage at Atucha I

30 August 2022

A new dry fuel storage facility at the Atucha nuclear power plant will store fuel assemblies the pressurised heavy water reactor has used over its 48 years of operation as the unit undergoes refurbishment. The facility was built by an Argentine supply chain.

The dry fuel store during commissioning (Image: NA-SA)

Situated about 100 kilometres northwest of Buenos Aires, the Atucha nuclear power plant has been generating electricity since 1974. The fuel bundles used by unit 1 of the plant have been stored within the reactor building since that time, but a decision was made to increase the storage space available as part of a project to increase its service life.

It has become common for pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) like Atucha 1 to undergo refurbishment, which typically involves replacing pressure tubes and fuel channels. The plant owner Nucleoeléctrica SA (NA-SA) plans to do this work from 2024-6 and then bring the reactor back on line for a further 20 years of service.

To enable this long-term operation, additional space has been created for used fuel storage. The facility just completed has 316 storage silos which together can house 2844 fuel bundles. Operations to transfer used fuel assemblies from Atucha 1's used fuel pool began on 27 August, NA-SA said.

For NA-SA the facility "marks a new milestone for the company and consolidates its ability to carry out complex engineering projects," it said. The company has led the creation of an experienced Argentine supply chain for PHWRs and associated technologies, which were originally imported from Germany's KWU, a joint venture of Siemens and AEG which eventually became part of France's Framatome.

Some ARS6 billion (USD4.3 million) was spent on the dry storage facility, which was built and kitted out by Argentine firms: Consulper completed civil construction; RAFA carried out the electromechanical assembly; UZWIL completed its metal structures and Tecniark engineered the storage panels. Nucleoeléctrica also credited Alsintec for process engineering and control; Conuar for the assembly of silo components; Fuego Red for the fire system; and SECIN for the manufacture of the container that moves used fuel elements to the storage silo.

Nucleoeléctrica said the successful project, "positions the Argentine nuclear industry as an engine of innovation and development of the country's scientific and technological capabilities".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News