CNEA and Nucleoeléctrica sign CAREM SMR agreement

30 October 2023

The National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) and Nucleoeléctrica Argentina have signed a framework agreement for technical assistance for the country's CAREM small modular reactor project.

An aerial view of the pilot plant, in November 2022 (Image: CNEA)

The technical assistance framework agreement was signed by CNEA president Adriana Serquis and Nucleoeléctrica President José Luis Antúnez and will have a two-year duration, extendable by mutual agreement, and provides a general framework for contracts for CAREM plant developments.

CNEA said the framework covers studies, analysis and calculations for CAREM development, supervision in engineering expertise, technical documentation such as equipment specifications and "advice on control measures, good practices and lessons learned; risk and opportunity analysis; determine training needs and eventually provide them, and advice on licensing issues".

Specific areas likely to benefit from the agreement will be "instrumentation and control, mechanical engineering, electromechanical assembly, pre-commissioning and commissioning, programming, radiation protection, commissioning and operation, simulations, electrical system and thermohydraulics".

The first contract within the framework agreement has also been signed "for the provision of technical assistance services in engineering to support the forecasts of design, construction, commissioning operation, operation and maintenance of CAREM nuclear power plants".

CNEA said the aim of the contract was for CAREM to take advantage of, and learn from, the experience that Nucleoeléctrica (NA-SA) "has been gathering both in operation and maintenance of Argentine plants, as well as in engineering during the completion and commissioning processes of the Atucha 2 plant and life extension of the Embalse plant".

CNEA's Serquis said the framework agreement "enhances the capabilities of the CAREM project, because it adds the capabilities of NA-SA. The state company will participate in the start-up, training of operators and many other aspects that are necessary for this project to become a reality".

Nucleoeléctrica's Antúnez said: "Nucleoeléctrica Argentina was born from CNEA and this agreement has great relevance, because we are helping to realise something that would have been a dream 50 years ago, which is the first reactor designed and built entirely in Argentina. This is proof of the maturity of the Argentine nuclear sector."

First concrete was poured for the prototype reactor in February 2014, marking the official start of its construction, however the project was suspended on a number of occasions, including from November 2019 for two years before restarting. In October 2022 CNEA said that civil construction works were expected to be finished by 2024, with initial criticality expected by the end of 2027.

The CAREM name is taken from Central ARgentina de Elementos Modulares. The 32 MWe prototype is Argentina's first domestically designed and developed nuclear power unit. At least 70% of the components and related services for CAREM-25 are to be sourced from Argentine companies. The commercial model ultimately envisaged by CNEA as the basis of a multi-reactor plant would have a higher power of between 100 and 120 MWe.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News