Argentina OKs Hydroelectric Dams, Halts Nuclear Plan in Patagonia

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By David Haskel

Argentina gave the final go-ahead to build two hydroelectric dams in southern Patagonia, as a province in that area said it was dropping plans to build a nuclear power plant due to community resistance.

First announced in 2015, the dams to be built on the Santa Cruz River were put on hold by President Mauricio Macri soon after he took office in December after complaints about their potential threat to glaciers, wildlife, and other environmental assets in a region that prides itself of its pristine natural resources.

After a government review, construction plans were downsized to a total 1,310 megawatts output—representing 5 percent of the current electricity demand in Argentina—from the original 1,740 megwatts, and they were sited away from a lake to help preserve the area.

The Energy Ministry and the Environment Ministry announced final approval Aug. 28 in Joint Resolution No. 3-E/2017 published in the official gazette, which said the government had taken into account environmental concerns.

But Rio Santa Cruz Sin Represas, a coalition of groups opposed to the dams, claimed the environmental impact assessment for the dams was incomplete.

Both hydroelectric dams in the Santa Cruz province will be financed and built by China’s Gezhouba Group, and an Argentine consortium of Electroingenieria S.A. and Hidrocuyo S.A.

Nuclear Plans

Meanwhile, Rio Negro province Gov. Alberto Weretilneck, who until as recently as May was a staunch supporter of plans to build a nuclear facility in that Patagonian state, said he has changed his mind due to strong resistance to the project, including public hearings, social media campaigns, letters to authorities, and citizen protests.

“I’ve always said that the nuclear plant would be installed only if there was social acceptance. Evidently, there wasn’t any,” he said in a video posted on the provincial government website.

The plant was one of two worth a total $15 billion that Argentina, which has three operating nuclear plants, was planning to build with engineering and financing backing from China National Nuclear Corporation to help with a severe lack of energy stifling economic growth. Location for the other nuclear plant was still under discussion.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Haskel in Buenos Aires at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at rdaigle@bna.com

For More Information

Joint Resolution No. 3-E/2017 is available, in Spanish, at http://src.bna.com/r38.

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