Argentina will complete work on its third nuclear power plant by the end of the year, Planning Minister Julio De Vido said at a press conference. Last April, De Vido said work on the plant, called Atucha II, wouldn't be finished until the first or second quarter of 2011.
De Vido said the government also will finish new work on the bi-national Argentine-Paraguayan Yacyreta hydroelectric plant this year. Once finished, the two projects will add 2,000 megawatts to the national power grid, he said. That will increase Argentina's total power generation capacity by about 10%, he said.
The energy tsar downplayed recent power outages, saying they have affected only 0.5% of users, but that figure refers only to clients in Greater Buenos Aires. Blackouts have affected millions of users in other areas.
The Atucha II plant, which is expected to generate around 700 megawatts, will provide about 3% of Argentina's total power output. Atucha II was originally supposed to come online more than 20 years ago in 1987. The project was stalled for 14 years because of inexplicable political and economic reasons, De Vido said last year.
Atucha II is being built in front of Atucha I.
The 360 megawatt Atucha I came online in 1974 while the country's second nuclear power plant, the 650 megawatt Embalse, began operating a decade later. Nuclear power typically accounts for around 5% of Argentina's electricity.
Argentina re-launched its nuclear power program nearly three years ago amid worsening energy woes. Shortages of natural gas used to power conventional generation plants began to appear in early 2004.
To meet its generating needs, Argentina has to import gas from Bolivia as well as liquefied natural gas from Trinidad and Tobago.