Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom nuclear energy group signed a contract in Vienna, on the side-lines of the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference, on 19 September to establish a Nuclear Research and Technology Centre (NRTC) in Bolivia. The contract, between Rosatom’s State Specialised Design Institute (SSDI) and the Bolivian Nuclear Energy Agency (ABEN) is worth more than $300m.

The NRTC in the city of El Alto (4,100 metres above sea level), near the capital, La Paz, will include a light-water-cooled 200kW research reactor as well as a cyclotron, a radiopharmacology complex, a multipurpose gamma-installation for experimental purposes, a number of laboratories, and engineering facilities. Rosatom will develop the nuclear infrastructure, train the scientific and engineering personnel, and provide operational and maintenance support throughout the lifetime of the facility. Rosatom will also continue to cooperate scientifically with the centre, which will apply radiation technologies in many areas, including agriculture, industry and medicine.  

NRTC’s first-phase facilities are  scheduled for commissioning  in 2019 and the facility will have a planned operational life of 50 years, after which the reactor could undergo life extension. “We offer Bolivia not just the construction of the highest-altitude nuclear science centre in the world; we offer our partners cutting-edge technologies,” said Rosatom director-general Alexey Likhachev. “The implementation of this project will allow Bolivia to become a regional leader in nuclear research.” He added: “Based on the results of the previously concluded contract for preliminary engineering studies, we have confirmed the suitability of the site and shortly, together with our Bolivian colleagues, we will proceed with practical measures for the construction of the centre.”

The contract negotiations for Russia were led by Rusatom Overseas, with participation of representatives of other Rosatom companies, including Rusatom – International Network, Rusatom Service, Rusatom Healthcare and the NN Dollezhal Research & Development Institute of Power Engineering. Rosatom has already built more than 120 research reactors in Russia and other countries. Rosatom noted that the international nuclear market in non-energy products and technologies is “growing strongly”. Currently, there are 245 research reactors operating in more than 50 countries, of which 58 are in Russia.