News came out this week that the first concrete had been poured at the construction site for the world’s first small modular reactor (SMR) project—and it wasn’t for a Generation mPower SMR at the former Clinch River site, or for a SMART SMR (which was the first type in the world to receive governmental design certification) at a site in South Korea.
Instead, this milestone event occurred in Argentina, at a site adjacent to the Atucha nuclear station (which hosts one operating pressurized heavy water reactor [PHWR] and a second long-delayed PHWR under renewed construction and expected to be completed this year).
The SMR under construction is called the CAREM 25, which is not only an indigenous Argentinian design, but also the first-ever indigenous Argentinian power reactor design. (The PHWR units were designed by the German firm KWU—later Siemens/KWU—and Argentina had previously only designed and built its own research and test reactors.)
Clearly, Argentina has a program of which it can be proud—especially considering its first construction of an SMR plant in a competitive universe rife with press releases, but devoid of new concrete. The fact of the matter is that CNEA, its contractors, and Argentina have far more to be proud of than this, because its program has both local applications (reliable and affordable energy) as well as national and international implications (building a local industry, exporting nuclear plants, and reducing carbon footprint) that should be a role model for everyone.
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