First concrete poured for Bolivian research reactor

July 30, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News
First concrete pour for research reactor begins at Bolivian nuclear research center. (Photo: Rosatom)

Key facilities at a multipurpose nuclear research center in the high plains of Bolivia are nearing operation, and a ceremonial first concrete pour for the nuclear research reactor that will serve as the centerpiece of the project was held on July 26. Bolivian president Luis Arce attended the ceremony at the Center for Nuclear Technology Research and Development (CNTRD). Also attending were Kirill Komarov, first deputy director general for corporate development and international business at Rosatom (Russia’s state atomic energy agency), and authorities from the Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energies and the Bolivian Nuclear Energy Agency (ABEN).

Location: El Alto in Bolivia is one of the highest-altitude major cities in the world, with a population that approaches 1 million. Located in the arid high plains just west of the Andes Mountains, the city sits near Bolivia’s government center of La Paz at about 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) above sea level. Its research reactor will be the highest-altitude nuclear facility, according to Rosatom, which is cooperating with ABEN through JSC GSPI (managed by Rusatom Overseas) to construct the facility.

Multiple missions: The Cyclotron Radiopharmacy Preclinical Complex and the Multipurpose Irradiation Center represent the first and second phases of construction at the CNTRD and are to be commissioned in the next few months. The deadline for commissioning all facilities at the research center, including the reactor complex, is set for 2024, according to Rosatom. The CNTRD will be used for scientific research and to produce radiopharmaceuticals, enabling more than 5,000 diagnostic and therapeutic procedures for cancer treatment each year. The center will also be used to irradiate agricultural and food products to ensure their safety and extend their shelf life, and to sterilize various medical devices.

“With this infrastructure, Bolivian and foreign scientists will be able to carry out unprecedented nuclear studies at 4,000 meters above sea level, which will help us in various areas such as mining, water resources, agriculture, and endless studies at the service of Bolivians and all the humanity,” Arce said in a speech to mark the occasion.

Russian-led construction: “This is our first project in Latin America of such significance, and we are doing our best to implement it successfully and meet the project time goals,” Komarov said. “Despite all the difficulties, the Russian side fully complies with its contract obligations, and I am sure that in the coming years we will maintain the momentum we have gained. With this said, we are eager to develop cooperation with our Bolivian partners.”

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