May 18, 2024

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Bolivia is taking a firm step in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy

Bolivia is taking a firm step in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy

Written by Jorge Petinod Martinez

Chief correspondent in Bolivia

Luis Arce, President of the high country, confirmed on social networks the arrival of the ship from Russia, and stressed the importance of its location in the Center for Research and Development in Nuclear Technology (Cidtn) in the city of El Alto.

It is an entity that seeks to benefit the sectors of health, industry, science and technology, and to contribute to the training and training of human resources to apply nuclear technology and seeks to provide solutions to various problems in the country.

“We are advancing on the path of development, science and technology as a dignified and sovereign people,” the president wrote in his message.

At the same time, an institutional memorandum from the Bolivian Nuclear Energy Agency (ABEN) delivered to Prensa Latina ensures that as part of the program implemented by the high country in this area, it implements projects for the benefit of the people and one of them is the city. From El Alto.

The text adds that this reactor is unique because it is located at an altitude of more than four thousand meters above sea level, in the eighth district of that city. Regarding its characteristics, it was specified that it is a moderate pond type, cooled by light water, and its thermal capacity is 200 kilowatts.

“This property makes it the first facility of this type at this altitude, opening up a whole range of possibilities for research,” said Erlan Vasquez, a nuclear engineering specialist at ABEN.

The arrival of this mill in Bolivia marked a milestone in the implementation of the nuclear research reactor in the country, and meant the transition between the construction phase and the equipment assembly phase.

That is, this event marked the beginning of the installation of the components of the reactor core in which the main atomic processes take place.

Vasquez explained: “Unlike (…) power reactors used to generate electricity, these reactors focus on researching and developing technologies related to nuclear energy.”

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Regarding its applications, its scope is described as broad, as it includes everything from environmental, industrial and mining applications to the forensic branch.

The specialist explained that this type of facility allows the production of radioactive isotopes used to improve the management of water resources. Another important area is neutron activation analysis in mining, which will serve to identify minerals of national importance, as well as areas with exploitable potential, Vazquez concluded.

nuclear medicine

President Arce's inauguration of the third Center for Nuclear Medicine and Radiotherapy (CMNyR) last November in 2023 confirmed the strength of Bolivia's program for the peaceful uses of corn.

Hortensia Jiménez, Executive Director of ABEN, confirmed in statements to Prensa Latina that in 2023 the commitment to operate this high-tech health complex will be fulfilled.

Jimenez told the news agency that after this inauguration, the country now has three such institutions to combat oncological diseases.

The first CMNyR in Bolivia was inaugurated in the Barcopata district, in the city of El Alto, on March 6, 2022, in the presence of Arce and Vice President David Choquehuanca.

The eminent person was also present at the opening of the CMNyR Center in Santa Cruz, on the occasion of the 212th anniversary of that constituency's emancipatory achievement, in September 2022.

Jiménez explained that the centers in La Paz, El Alto and Santa Cruz are the same and have the same capacity in terms of care, as this network of clinics includes specialized Bolivian specialists.

The state-of-the-art infrastructure was built with an investment of more than $50 million each, and allows for advanced diagnostics and treatments.

To fulfill the first function, the Department of Nuclear Medicine has two modern machines: positron emission tomography (PET/CT) and single photon emission tomography (Spect/CT).

The first makes it possible to accurately detect the location of the tumor in the human body and the second makes it easier to recognize and control bone, heart and brain disorders.

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In addition, modern institutions have three oncology fields, one for external beam radiotherapy, with two linear accelerators, a duplication that avoids shutting down service when one piece of equipment needs maintenance.

High dose rate brachytherapy, based on cobalt 60 as a radiation source, contains advanced technology that reduces cervical cancer treatment from 72 continuous hours to less than one hour.

In the field of chemotherapy, oncologists have the necessary conditions to implement all combinations of drugs and antibodies required in the search for the greatest effectiveness in combating the disease.

According to the Executive Director of ABEN, this type of institution has the capacity to serve up to 120 people per day, and has a multidisciplinary team consisting of doctors, physicists, engineers and technologists.

Another benefit for Bolivians is that all these services are provided free of charge through the Unified Health System, which is funded by the national government.

An ambitious programme

As part of this programme, the Cyclotron Preclinical Radiopharmaceutical Complex was inaugurated in March 2023, from which Bolivia began sovereign production of radiopharmaceuticals.

This advanced complex initiates the production of the anti-cancer radiopharmaceutical fluorodeoxyglucose, one of the most widely used compounds in positron emission tomography (PET) studies and is distributed in the network of nuclear medicine and radiotherapy centers for early and accurate cancer diagnosis.

The presence of CMNyR in El Alto, Santa Cruz and La Paz now makes it possible to address the difficulty of the short half-life of radiopharmaceuticals and apply it more effectively to patients in these departments.

Another important success: last October, the Multi-Purpose Irradiation Center began operation, where by exposing products to ionizing gamma rays, they disinfect and remove the microbial load from food, sanitary aids and other products, even already packaged ones. . Located in the eighth district of El Alto, this complex supports agribusiness, the agricultural sector, the pharmaceutical industry as well as the preservation of cultural heritage, applications that reinforce the government's policy aimed at achieving security and sovereignty in these areas.

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Part of the Center for Nuclear Technology Research and Development (Cidtn) are Multipropósito and Cyclotrón, also located in the 8th district of El Alto.

Training of specialists

All these technological developments are already having an interdisciplinary impact on Bolivian society, which has begun to transform its educational process to enhance preparation in the exact sciences and the technological profile of its human resources.

In this sense, Bolivia is preparing to select professional candidates for scholarships in Russia to train as specialists in managing the nuclear reactor located at the research center in the city of El Alto.

“We trust our scientists! We launched 53 new scholarships to train our specialists in #Russia to manage the #ElAlto nuclear research reactor (…). Our revolution is also technological!” President Arce wrote on social networks.

At the end of September, an expert mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency, headed by engineer Viviane Pereira, visited the country with the aim of strengthening the activity of the high-level state regulatory body on nuclear safety and radiation protection. .

During the course of the work, these specialists gave presentations on a project called Improving Nuclear Physical Security through Sustainable Management, Inventory and Storage of Disused Radioactive Sources and Code of Conduct.

In addition, the Mission offered Bolivia the option of managing the removal of Category I and II radioactive sources, due to neglect or change in technology, and hosting a regional workshop for Spanish speakers on policy and strategy development this year.

This will undoubtedly lead to the absorption of quality assurance systems into the highlands which will affect other branches of the economy and society.

Pereira's visit to Bolivia coincided with the participation of the Minister of Hydrocarbons and Energy, Franklin Molina, and Hortensia Jimenez in the sixty-seventh General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, a forum in which Bolivia's voice is heard with interest.