Feb 1, 2021

Ep. 290: IFNEC Series - Facundo Deluchi (Argentina)

Former National Director of Nuclear Policies
Undersecretariat of Nuclear Energy of Argentina
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Show notes

Nuclear Energy in Argentina (3:03-12:20)
Facundo Deluchi introduces Argentina’s nuclear program and its impact worldwide through technology export

Q: Tell me about yourself and the nuclear program in Argentina.
A: Facundo Deluchi is the former National Director of Nuclear Policies of the Government of Argentina. He continues to work at the Argentine National Atomic Energy Commission, but also serves as the Vice Chair at the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC). This year marks the 60th anniversary of Argentina’s National Atomic Energy Commission and the country’s nuclear history as a whole. Facundo started out as an intern at the National Atomic Energy Commission, working in the international area. He went on to become the head of the Bilateral Relations department and later, the head of the International Relations department and the manager of Institutional Affairs. Facundo entered into the National Atomic Energy Commission in 2005, a time in which there was a relaunch of the country’s national nuclear program. He started out with a strong involvement at the international level and was then appointed as the National Director for Nuclear Policies. This led Facundo to get involved with IFNEC. Argentina has gone through different stages in its nuclear energy development, related to the development of science and technology in developing economies. One of the most important projects was the completion of the Atucha 2 nuclear power plant, the life expansion of the pressurized heavy-water reactor. An important public-owned Argentine company, INVAP, successfully won the construction of the OPAL reactor in Australia, the PALLAS reactor in the Netherlands, and is currently building the CAREM reactor in Argentina. INVAP is also working in Brazil on construction of their multipurpose research reactor. One of the better ways to devote resources to your development goals is to invest in intellectual development associated with science and technology, especially in nuclear-specific areas which include energy, medicine, and others. This also opens opportunities internationally through successfully exporting technology abroad. This approach also allows for innovation, for example, the production of low-enriched uranium (LEU) targets for Moly-99. Argentina developed this technology due to safeguards, safety and security considerations. Argentina’s technology has been successfully exported to multiple countries. The country recently launched the SAOCOM 1B satellite, a spinoff of the nuclear technology development produced by INVAP.

Nuclear Technology Export in a Developing Energy Market (12:20-22:22)
The role of INVAP in Argentina’s nuclear program and throughout the international market

Q: What is INVAP?
A: INVAP is Argentina’s public-owned company devoted to technology development. The National Atomic Energy Commission is the “mother” of all the existing nuclear organizations and companies in Argentina. INVAP formed in the 1970’s as a spinoff of the National Atomic Energy Commission. Argentina’s utility, NA-SA, operates the nuclear power plants and several other countries are dedicated to the nuclear fuel cycle. One of the key issues in the nuclear industry as a whole is related to the transition ability between the birth of nuclear energy development, which has some component of sensitivity and secrecy, and the relation between the customer and the supplier. In order to develop a special partnership with its clients, Argentina worked on the transfer of technology and understanding the needs of the developing economies that are looking for projects to show industrial and scientific development. The idea was for Argentina to create a horizontal partnership with these other countries while also being able to understand the economic impacts and go beyond, with intellectual development and human resources training. INVAP was not just hired based on price, but on its ability to offer something else related to the technology. This led INVAP to win contracts in Australia and the Netherlands. Several restrictions and obstacles are related to access to financing for projects, a conversation that is happening worldwide. Climate change and sustainable development goals are issues faced worldwide. Nuclear power can be a powerful tool to address these issues, but worldwide discussions around financing are a limiting factor. The transition is not complete between the beginning of nuclear history to the development of the energy market worldwide.

Energy Needs in Developing Countries (22:22-28:53)
Why the specific needs of developing countries must be considered in energy infrastructure development

Q: What impact do international nuclear projects have on the economy?
A: An innovative approach is needed to make nuclear energy attractive to financing and more flexible to work with other energy sources. In order to perform an attractive project for nuclear, it needs to be accomplished with a safety structure that is not interesting at all to nuclear profit. Safety needs must be adapted to business needs. At the same time, the international perception about what a nuclear project is needs to be changed to a powerful tool to address some of the most challenging worldwide issues. Some agendas agree on climate change issues and the need to develop sustainable development goals, but on the other side are not willing to give access to the solutions that nuclear can provide. Another part of the story is the interconnected war that has caused civil unrest. The potential market and the main target countries are not part of that war. The bridge must be built to link the needs of the developing world and what the developed countries can provide. The nuclear industry community as a whole is not discussing this and may not be connected with the needs of the world. Nuclear Innovation for a Clean Energy Future is discussing the role of nuclear in a future of clean energy systems, but is also using the same language that the energy industry is using worldwide. Nuclear projects need economic and safety certainty and sustainability.

IFNEC’s Role in Connecting Nuclear Stakeholders (28:53-38:13)
How the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation brings different nuclear stakeholders together to strengthen the worldwide industry

Q: Bringing up nuclear safety doesn’t make people feel more safe. Why don’t people assume construction and operation is done safely if infrastructure is built well?
A: When Facundo Deluchi talks to local communities that have operating nuclear power plants, there is no fear about the nuclear facility. They rely on the safety of the facility. These facilities also provide a lot of benefits to the community that they otherwise wouldn’t have. The industry needs to include, with safety and security discussions, the promotion and sustainability of the project. This transition is still underway. The International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC) is a very attractive platform because it is very flexible and allows for very high level authorities to sit together with senior representatives with the industry to have frank discussions. This platform provides an opportunity to freely address what the group has identified as the main challenges. One working group is focused on strengthening the link between the customers and the suppliers to strengthen the supply chain and find innovative approaches to financing. IFNEC is planning on holding upcoming discussions in Poland on finance for small modular reactors (SMR) and in Kenya on development of nuclear projects in developing countries. Plans for the future also include providing a platform for smaller companies, such as metallurgical, logistics, and construction companies to develop business in nuclear worldwide. There are many indicators of an optimistic nuclear future worldwide, not only in the main international organizations, but also looking at how new projects are being started worldwide. Facundo likes to see the innovative approach the industry is performing through new players. More diverse players, with key support from the state, provide innovative approaches to flexible solutions to the worldwide need for nuclear options. The industry is moving towards a lower cost, more flexible solutions, and adapting to a worldwide market.

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