World’s highest nuclear facility set up in El Alto, Bolivia

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The world’s highest nuclear facility has been set up with the installation of a research reactor pressure vessel at a height of 4,000 metres above sea level in the South American nation of Bolivia.  

This world record feat was announced last week by the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom which is assisting Bolivia in setting up the Center for Nuclear Technology Research and Development (CNRTD) in El Alto. 

“A ceremony to celebrate the inauguration of the Multipurpose Irradiation Center (MIC) as well as installation of the vessel of the first research reactor in Bolivia was held at the site of the Center for Nuclear Technology Research and Development (CNRTD) in El Alto,” a Rosatom statement said.  

“The reactor complex with the Russian equipment will allow Bolivia to conduct fundamental and applied scientific research, thus providing additional tools for the development of various economic sectors, including the lithium industry. The research reactor will also ensure the production of radioisotopes and will serve as a training tool for future nuclear facilities personnel,” it added. 

The inauguration ceremony was also attended by the Bolivian President Luis Alberto Arce Catacora. 

“Thanks to the multi-purpose irradiation center, we will be able to process agricultural products and subsequently export them in accordance with the standards necessary for getting access to the international markets. This is why the multi-purpose irradiation center has such a great meaning to us,” the Bolivian President said.  

“The installation of a research reactor pressure vessel in the world’s highest mountain meteor at an altitude of 4,000 meters above sea level is a new record for the entire global nuclear industry. Today, together with our partners, we have also put into commercial operation a multipurpose irradiation center. We are very happy that Bolivia, with Russian support, is successfully introducing advanced nuclear technologies into socially important sectors of the economy,” Rosatom Director General, Alexey Likhachev, said. 

In addition to a research reactor with a complex of laboratories and a multipurpose irradiation center, the CNTRD project also includes a cyclotron complex to produce radiopharmaceuticals commissioned in March 2023, and a laboratory of radiobiology and radioecology.  

The target date for completing construction of the center is 2025, Rosatom said. 

The cyclotron complex for the production of radiopharmaceuticals began supplying earlier this year to the network of nuclear medicine centres in the country. The facility benefits the national healthcare system as it provides domestic production of the whole range of radiopharmaceuticals required for clinical examination of over 5,000 patients a year.