National Atomic Energy Commission

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National Atomic Energy Commission
Logo CNEA.svg
Seal of the CNEA

The National Atomic Energy Commission (Spanish: Comisión Nacional de Energía Atómica, CNEA) is the Argentine government agency in charge of nuclear energy research and development.

The agency was created on May 31, 1950 with the mission of developing and controlling nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in the country.

CNEA's facilities include the Bariloche Atomic Center (in San Carlos de Bariloche), Constituyentes Atomic Center (in the city of Buenos Aires), and Ezeiza Atomic Center(in Ezeiza, Buenos Aires Province). Research reactors exist in all of these sites.

Argentina has two operational nuclear power plants,: the 335-MWe Atucha I built by Germany's (Siemens) and the 600-MWe Embalse built by Canadian CANDU. A third one, the 692-MWe Atucha II, has been delayed for many years by financial and political problems but is now in progress and near to enter operation.


Officially established by President Juan Perón's Decree No 10.936, CNEA filled the need for a state organ to oversee the funding of the Huemul Project in Bariloche. Before CNEA came into being, the project was funded by the Dirección de Migraciones. In practice CNEA had only four members (Juan Domingo Perón, González, Mendé and Ronald Richter). In 1951, decree 9697 created another agency, the Dirección Nacional de la Energía Atómica (DNEA), also under González, to do research on atomic energy in Buenos Aires (González left CNEA in April 1952 and was replaced by Iraolagoitía) until 1955. After being assessed by two review panels in 1952, the Huemul Project was closed and Richter was no longer a CNEA member. Research in physics and technology continued in Bariloche, but no longer along Richter's original line.

Admiral Oscar Armando Quihillalt was the first director of the National Atomic Energy Commission, and was also an important participant in the International Atomic Energy Agency.[1]

In 1955, José Antonio Balseiro, a research scientist and member of the first review panel on the Huemul Project, took over the recently created Instituto de Física de Bariloche, now Instituto Balseiro, which used Richter's facilities in the mainland, but abandoned the buildings in Huemul Island.

In 1956 Argentina's uranium resources were nationalized with the Commission controlling prospecting, production, and marketing. A yellowcake (uranium oxide) production capability was created that could support future plans for reactors. However, in accord with three presidential decrees of 1960, 1962 and 1963, Argentina supplied its initial production of about 90 tons of unsafeguarded yellowcake to Israel to fuel its Dimona reactor, creating the fissile material for Israel's first nuclear weapons.[1]

The facilities in Buenos Aires were expanded after the closure of the Huemul Project, and by the 1960s became larger in terms of size and expenditure than those in Bariloche. It was the Constituyentes research centre that the first Latin American research reactor was built (1957), the RA-1 Enrico Fermi.

The Atucha I nuclear power plant was completed in 1974 and Embalse in 1984.

In 1995 CNEA's functions where divided into newly created separate organizations such as the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (Autoridad Regulatoria Nuclear - ARN), which supervises nuclear safety in the country, and the Nucleoeléctrica Argentina - NASA, the company that operates the two completed nuclear power reactors. Today, CNEA mainly focuses on research and development of nuclear and related technologies.

In 2001 the original 1956 Directory structure of a President and five members designated by the National Executive authority was reduced, eliminating four positions of the Directory by Decrees 1065/01 and 1066/01.

On 2010 CNEA reopened the Enriched uranium plant at Pilcaniyeu inaugurated on 1983 [2] but closed in the 1990s [3]

Research activities[edit]

Centro Atómico Bariloche entrance.
Tandar Particle accelerator inside

CNEA has currently three main research centers, as well as other activities in smaller units around the country.

The Centro Atómico Bariloche contains the Instituto Balseiro which depends academically on the National University of Cuyo. It has trained a couple of hundred physicists and nuclear engineers and produced hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers as well as other important contributions to applied and basic science.

The Centro Atómico Constituyentes has pioneered the construction of research reactors in Argentina, and has research groups in metallurgy, physics and chemistry. The Tandar accelerator is a large tandem Van de Graaff type facility dedicated to nuclear physics, condensed matter physics and medical research. It also has an academic unit, the Instituto Sábato, in association with the Universidad de San Martín that grants Masters and Doctors degrees in Materials Science.

The Centro Atómico Ezeiza produces nuclear isotopes for medicine in its RA-3 research/production reactor, and houses other research facilities.

The CNEA currently holds two U.S. patents(see external links)


Although power reactors in the 100-megawatt range have not been built by Argentina on its own, INVAP S.E., a company owned by the Río Negro Province, started by graduates of the Instituto Balseiro in 1976, has exported research reactors to Peru, Algeria, Egypt and most recently Australia (2000). The Australian reactor, OPAL, featuring a core power of 20 MW became operational in 2006, reaching full power in November of that year.

Budget 2011[edit]

usd$206 Million[4]


On the issue of the construction of Argentina's projected third reactor Atucha II, the Argentine government has announced (in 2003 and again in 2006) its commitment to complete the project, estimating it will cost a further US$600 million. Thus the total cost is now estimated at US$3.8 billion, or about $5500/kWe (considerably higher than the US$1.5 billion or about $2200/kWe originally planned in 1981).

Nevertheless on 2010 the government signed a memorandum with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) for Atucha III as an ACR-1000 1500 MWe per $3 billion [5]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°32′22″S 58°27′55″W / 34.53944°S 58.46528°W / -34.53944; -58.46528