Bolivia and Russia have had an intergovernmental agreement since 2016. This one foresees the creation of a nuclear investigation center for medical and other purposes. The $351 million project, paid for by the government of former Bolivian President Evo Morales, has just been launched.
Bolivia: the work of the nuclear center begins
On March 6, 2016, the Bolivian and Russian governments signed an intergovernmental agreement. The contract was for the construction of a nuclear investigation center valued at over $351 million. The Bolivian Center of Investigation and Development of the Nuclear Technology (Cidtn) and theAtomic Agency Rosatom have just started the works.
Bolivia is expected to finalize construction of the first two phases of its nuclear research center this fall 2021. The center will be based in El Alto on 15 hectares at an altitude of over 4,000 meters. The work is carried out by the Rosatom State Institute.
The project was announced by Mikhail Ledenev, and Alexey Altynov, respectively Russian ambassador to Bolivia and vice-president of the project team of Rosatom. This was during a visit to Cidtn.
Research for medical, agricultural and environmental purposes
The nuclear reactor will enable unprecedented research in areas such as mining and agriculture. This project is part of the civil plan de energía atómica for peaceful purposes announced by the Bolivian government in 2014. This plan is also supported by theInternational Atomic Energy Organization.
“The reactor will produce radiopharmaceuticals for cancer patients, as well as for agricultural problems such as the fight against diseases, with the aim of improving the yield of agricultural products,” said the Bolivian Head of State, Luis Arce.
The objective is also to improve the quantity and quality of agricultural yields.
“The MIC technology will increase the shelf life of the food and ensure its quality. Since we started this project, land prices in this area have gone up making this area a prestigious region. Such research centers will improve R&D collaboration while attracting scientists from all over the world who will help solve major problems,” says Mikhail Ledenev.
The completion of the nuclear center planned for 2024
The project is unique in the nuclear sector with nuclear research equipment. This is based on a cold water reactor with a capacity of 200 kW, in addition to a radiation center. The latter is multi-purpose and promotes industrial gamma-ray equipment, in addition to other various research centers.
The research center is expected to be operational by 2024.
“The project is not only unique for Bolivia, but also for all of Latin America. It is based on advanced technology that will make a real impact in the fight against cancer,” added Ambassador Mikhail Ledenev.
The coup d’état in Bolivia slows down the project
Construction of the first stage of the nuclear project began almost immediately after the agreement was signed. Its completion was scheduled for the end of 2019 according to the Russian agenda. However, the Coup d’état against former President Evo Morales in November 2019 has upset plans. The project was thus halted in February 2020 by the new government in place.
With the re-election of President Morales in October 2020 following his exile, the project is back on track. At the same time, in July 2019, Rostechnadzor signed a cooperation agreement with the Bolivian Electricity and Nuclear Technology Supervisory Authority. The agreement covered the safety of nuclear and radiation regulation and the use of nuclear energy.
The current nuclear project as well as other projects between the two nations strengthen their diplomatic relations. Bolivia is now among the important countries for the development of nuclear energy in Latin America.