Nuclear Technology for Peace
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#271November 2023

Nuclear Technology for Peace

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A multi-­purpose irradiation center was inaugurated and a research reactor vessel was installed in place in Bolivia’s El Alto. These facilities are part of the Nuclear Research and Technology Center built by Rosatom at the request of the Bolivian Nuclear Energy Agency (ABEN).

Perched 4,000 meters above the sea level, the Nuclear Research and Technology Center (NRTC) is the world’s highest altitude nuclear facility. Its multi-­purpose irradiation center will treat food products with ionizing radiation to extend their shelf life.

“With this multi-­purpose facility, we will be able to irradiate agricultural products and subsequently export them in accordance with the standards required to reach international markets. This is why the multipurpose irradiation center is so important to us. We could not have achieved it without the cooperation with our brother country Russia and Rosatom Nuclear Corporation, which helps us build the Nuclear Research and Technology Center here, in the city of El Alto,” Bolivian President Luis Alberto Arce Catacora said when speaking at the opening ceremony.

The irradiation center will also be used to treat medical and pharmaceutical products. The technology allows products to be irradiated right in the packaging without compromising its integrity. Irradiation causes almost no heating, so this method is often called cold sterilization. Each product requires an individual irradiation mode. The irradiation time is a few seconds to a few minutes per package; the contents of the package are ready for use immediately after treatment.

This treatment method is completely safe as it leaves no harmful substances inside or outside the product. It is used all over the world as the second most popular method of general sterilization of food products in the global market with a share of about 40 %. After being treated with radiation, the products retain all their beneficial properties.

President Arce invited Bolivian producers to use the irradiation services to start exporting their products.

Other news from the NRTC site is that a pressure vessel of Bolivia’s first research reactor was installed in its design position. The reactor will be used to produce radioisotopes and train personnel for nuclear facilities.

“Installing the research reactor vessel in the world’s highest altitude metropolis at 4,000 meters above the sea level is a new achievement for the global nuclear industry. This was made possible thanks to our efficient cooperation with the Bolivian partners and, of course, unparalleled design and engineering solutions implemented by Rosatom,” Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev pointed out.

In addition to the multi-­purpose irradiation center and the research reactor with laboratories, the NRTC also includes a cyclotron facility for the production of radiopharmaceuticals, and radiobiology and radioecology laboratories. The completion deadline for the NRTC facilities is 2025. The cyclotron facility has been operational since March 2023, supplying radiopharmaceuticals to Bolivian hospitals for over 5,000 diagnostic procedures per year. The Bolivians now have an opportunity to timely undergo top-quality medical examinations with advanced radiopharmaceuticals without traveling abroad. In the long run, the substances produced at the cyclotron facility will fully substitute imported medicines.