* China to provide 85 pct of financing
* Argentina working on its own SMR model
By Sylvia Westall
ABU DHABI, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Argentina plans to start building two new nuclear reactors next year, a government official said on Tuesday.
The South American country already generates about 5 percent of its electricity with three heavy water nuclear reactors, two German-built and one Canadian, with combined capacity of 1,600 megawatts (MW).
Argentina's Undersecretary of Nuclear Energy Julian Gadano told Reuters that besides extending the life of the Canadian-built 600 MW Candu Embalse reactor - which produced its first power in 1983 - the country plans to build two new reactors at a cost of about $13 billion over 10 years.
A new Candu reactor with capacity of 720 MW will be built by Canadian company SNC-Lavalin's Candu Energy unit and Argentina state nuclear company NASA. A second project is for a 1,150 MW Hualong One reactor to be built by China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC).
"We are finishing negotiation of the commercial and financial contracts to build two new power plants. We will begin to construct these plants in the second half of 2018," Gadano told Reuters on the sidelines of a nuclear power conference in Abu Dhabi.
He added that the projects would be financed 85 percent by Chinese institutions and 15 percent by the Argentine treasury.
Gadano said that the Embalse upgrade started in January 2016 and the plant should be able to operate for 30 more years after the upgrade is completed in the second half of 2018.
Argentina is also developing its own small and modular reactor technology (SMR) and Gadano said its prototype 25 MW SMR is expected to be completed in 2018.
"We expect to have the basic engineering of the commercial model next year. Our intention is to be a player in the SMR market," he said.
Several countries, including Britain and Russia, are developing SMRs as an alternative to the huge conventional pressurised water reactors that cost several billions of dollars and take years to build. (Writing by Geert De Clercq; Editing by David Goodman)