Q&A: Rusatom Overseas President Evgeny Pakermanov

11 August 2021

The nuclear technology research and development centre (CNTRD) Russia is building in the Bolivian city of El Alto will serve as a model not only for Latin America but for the global nuclear industry, Rusatom Overseas President Evgeny Pakermanov said in an interview with World Nuclear News. Rusatom Overseas is a subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, which in July announced the start of construction works for a research reactor facility at the CNTRD.

Rusatom Overseas President Evgeny Pakermanov (Image: Rosatom)

What will the CNTRD offer?

It will offer radiopharmaceuticals production for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other diseases; medical devices sterilisation; agricultural production treatment; and science and education development. More broadly, it offers socio-political development and an increase in the quality of life of the entire population.

What benefits will it bring to Bolivia?

The CNTRD will enable a wide range of research in various sectors, including industry and ecology, physical chemical and materials sciences, hydromechanics, and mining, which will boost Bolivia’s technological development. Additionally, the centre will provide Bolivians with access to advanced radiopharmaceuticals for the treatment of cancer and other illnesses. This means that Bolivian citizens won’t need to go abroad to get nuclear medicine treatment. In terms of agriculture the CNTRD will enhance the country’s agro-industrial complex and ensure food security. Finally, it isn't an exaggeration to say that the CNTRD is of great importance for driving science and education. It will offer services for training specialists in nuclear physics and related specialties from Bolivia and other Latin American countries, and set the stage for scientific collaboration to address global challenges in ecology, healthcare, and other areas. This is a one-of-a-kind project, not only for Bolivia, but the entire Latin American region.

What is the status of the project’s construction?

The Bolivian Nuclear Energy Agency (ABEN) and Rusatom Overseas subsidiary JSC GSPI signed a general contract for the centre’s construction in September 2017. Currently, Stage 1 and Stage 2 objects are under construction at a high pace, and work is under way to improve the site of the CNTRD. This year will see the commissioning of two key elements of the CNTRD which are of great importance for Bolivia’s healthcare sector: the Cyclotron Radiopharmacy Preclinical Complex (CRPC) and the Multipurpose Irradiation Centre (MIC).

How will the CRPC improve healthcare in Bolivia?

It is equipped with a cyclotron (a particle accelerator) designed to produce a wide range of radiopharmaceuticals. The complex is designed to conduct clinical trials of over 5000 patients annually, which is a meaningful contribution to the fight against cancer in the country.

What purposes will the MIC serve?

This comprises a gamma ray irradiation machine that can process agricultural products and medical devices with ionising radiation. This method can significantly reduce food product losses by as much as 50%. Today, up to 100 types of products, including various fruits and vegetables, are treated with ionising radiation across the world. Each country has its own right to decide what products should be processed in this way; a technological mode for each product is preliminarily set and checked. The MIC will process over 70 tonnes of food products per day.

What are the next steps in the project’s implementation?

The next phase, which we have already started, is fulfilling construction of the Stage 3 and Stage 4 facilities, namely scientific laboratories, and the research reactor itself. We plan to complete this work in 2024.

What will the other CNTRD facilities be?

These include, first and foremost, a research reactor. This is an innovative installation that allows for a wide range of research and experimental work, including the production of radioisotopes for industrial and scientific applications and neutron activation analysis. The reactor also serves as a training tool for nuclear specialists. A research reactor is not designed to generate power; instead, it provides neutrons for conducting various types of research, thereby stimulating the development of numerous sciences. The research reactor will be built during the fourth construction stage and is expected to be commissioned in 2024 - the year in which we aim to complete the whole project. Let me emphasise that the research reactor will be built in strict adherence to the norms set out by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

How has the project affected the El Alto metropolitan area?

A centre like the CNTRD promotes scientific collaboration, attracting scientists from all over the world to help solve global problems. The CNTRD project will significantly contribute to the urban infrastructure development and creation new jobs for local residents. Under the terms of the contract, about 500 high-skilled jobs are expected to be created for the residents of El Alto and La Paz.

How is this project a model for the nuclear industry?

Due to its unique location, the Bolivian CNTRD will certainly become a landmark for the entire global nuclear industry and create new opportunities for Russian advanced technology exports to Latin American countries. It’s a full-scale CNTRD project that embraces a research reactor, a Cyclotron Radiopharmacy Preclinical Complex, a Multipurpose Irradiation Center, and various laboratories. At the same time, the design of centres for nuclear science and technology is flexible and could vary depending on the economic and financial features of the partner country as well as its level of experience in the nuclear industry. For example, within the centre for nuclear science and technology product line we offer special solutions for agriculture and healthcare industries. We also offer services for the modernisation and refitting of previously built research reactors. This gives our customers great freedom of choice.