Launch of Atucha II reactor crowns a long and fruitful collaboration between Belgium and Argentina

The Atucha II nuclear reactor was successfully launched in Argentina on 3 June 2014. An achievement applauded by the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre, which has been working closely with the Argentine operator and nuclear safety authorities since the project began in 2005. A global specialist in the testing of nuclear materials, SCK•CEN participated above all in the monitoring programme as well as carrying out various safety and feasibility studies on the Atucha II reactor.

Achieving first criticality, the Argentine reactor Atucha II is poised to become Argentina’s third reactor. This new pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR) must pass a series of tests before it is ready for commercial use. As the project’s special partner, SCK•CEN would like to heartily congratulate the teams of Argentine experts with whom it has worked since the beginning.

Recognised worldwide for its expertise in the testing of materials in nuclear power plants, both in Belgium and abroad, SCK•CEN was already approached by Argentina in 2002. Upon the request of the operator NA-SA and ARN, the Argentine safety authority, the Centre proceeded with the irradiation of a series of samples as well as conducting studies for the Atucha I reactor, thus justifying the vessel’s safety margins beyond 40 years in operation.

The Belgian-Argentine scientific collaboration didn’t stop there. Within the framework of the Atucha II monitoring programme, SCK•CEN primarily carried out a feasibility study and compiled a safety report for the Argentine authorities. In July 2010, the Belgian experts went over there to install sample capsules around the inner wall of the reactor vessel using a robotic arm. Following this technological feat, SCK•CEN continued its consultancy work through various studies and services for the Atucha I and II reactors.