Argentina signed contracts worth 444 million dollars on Wednesday with a subsidiary of SNC-Lavalin Group, Canada's top engineering firm, to extend the shelf-life of its Embalse nuclear plant.
The contracts signed by the government, state-owned Nucleoelectrica Argentina, and Candu Energy Inc --SNC-Lavalin subsidiary-- involve the transfer of Canadian technology and help developing the local manufacture of reactor components.
The government aims to extend the plant's working life by about 30 years, at a total cost of 1.37 billion dollars Planning Minister Julio De Vido told a news conference.
The Embalse plant came on line in 1984 and is located in the central province of Cordoba. It uses natural uranium Candu 6 reactor and has a production capacity of 648 megawatts.
The overhaul will take a total of five years and will require a shutdown of the plant of roughly 20 months, starting in November 2013, according to a government statement.
Argentina, Brazil and Mexico are the only Latin American countries with nuclear energy plants, and Argentina has embarked on an ambitious plan to build new plants to ease reliance on dwindling fossil fuels.
Argentina has two nuclear power plants--Atucha I, built with Siemens AG, and Embalse, built with AECL. The 360MW Atucha I, located on the Parana river in northwestern Buenos Aires province, came online in 1974.
A third nuclear plant, Atucha II, is set to come online later this year, more than 24 years later than planned. It will generate 750MW, about 3% of Argentina's total power output.
The government plans for a fourth plant, which will likely be called Atucha III, to be operational in 2016-2017. The government has identified five possible construction companies that have shown interest in building the plant, which would include two units capable of producing 740MW each.