Experimental nuclear physics in Argentina entered the era of so-called ““big science”” with a project to build a 20 MeV tandem-type accelerator for heavy ions. Promoted by the group of nuclear physicists of Argentina's National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA), the TANDAR (TANDem ARgentino) project was presented to CNEA's Navy authorities during a democratic period of complete turmoil and a deep economic crisis. Most of its construction took place during eight years of brutal military dictatorship (1976––1983), leading to its inauguration in the first years of a new democratic government (1986). This article narrates how the project was envisioned, planned, and executed, and discusses the distortion of the usual meaning of ““big science”” when applied to a ““peripheral”” context.

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