Bolivia to commission $350m nuclear research centre in autumn

Bolivia is set to complete the first two phases of its nuclear research centre, which pertain to medical research, this autumn, reports Nuclear Engineering International. 

The announcement was made during a visit to the site of the Centre for Nuclear Technology Research and Development (CNTRD) by Mikhail Ledenev, Russia’s ambassador to Bolivia, and Alexey Altynov, vice president of the Rosatom team working on the project.

The centre is under construction in El Alto, a 15ha site 4,000m above sea level on the western outskirts of La Paz. The work is being carried out by Rosatom’s Specialised State Institute of Design.

The first two phases will involve the installation of the "Preclinical Cyclotron-Radiopharmacology Complex", which will produce radioactive isotopes for cancer treatment, as well as the "Multipurpose Irradiation Centre", which will make a gamma-ray unit for medical devices and agricultural products.

The next phase, to be completed in 2024, will add a 200kW research reactor, a radioisotope production complex and neutron activation laboratories.

Hortensia Jiménez, executive director of the Bolivian Agency for Nuclear Energy, told Bolivian television that the country had at least 12 professionals with masters’ degrees ready to staff the centre.

Ambassador Ledenev added: "The project is unique not only for Bolivia, but also for all of Latin America. It is based on advanced technologies that will make a real impact in the fight against oncological diseases. The irradiation centre will increase the shelf life of food products and ensure their safety and high quality."

The government of Bolivia concluded a $300m deal with Rosatom in 2016 (see further reading). The aim was to lay the technical basis for the country’s future civil nuclear industry.

Work on the centre was delayed by political turmoil that followed the ousting of President Evo Morales in November 2019, and was formally suspended by the new government in February 2020. Work resumed in November 2020 after the election victory of Luis Arce, the new leader of Morales’ Movement for Socialism.  

Image: The deal with Russian state-owned nuclear engineer Rosatom was signed in March 2016 (Rosatom)

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