Latin America

Morales’ Legacy: Bolivian Joint Nuclear Project With Russia’s Rosatom Unique for Latin America

Bolivia is reviving projects that were put on pause after the November 2019 coup d’etat. Together with restarting its ambitious lithium programme, the country is continuing the construction of the Centre for Nuclear Technology Research and Development (CNTRD) in El Alto.

On 4 June, Bolivian Minister of Hydrocarbons and Energies Franklin Molina Ortiz met with senior managers of state atomic energy corporation Rosatom during his official visit to Russia. They discussed what progress had been made to date in the implementation of the joint CNTRD endeavour and projected that the operations of its first component – the Multipurpose Irradiation Centre (MIC) – would begin before the end of 2021.

Peaceful Nuclear Energy & Economic Development

On 19 September 2017, the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract for the CNTRD construction in El Alto was signed by the Bolivian Nuclear Energy Agency (ABEN) and JSC GSPI, operating under the auspices of Rusatom Overseas – Rosatom’s company responsible for the international marketing and promotion of centres for nuclear science and technology.

“The CNTRD project is a unique project not only for Bolivia, but also for the entire Latin America,” Mikhail Ledenev, the head of the Russian embassy, told journalists on 24 March 2021. “Such centres are to improve R&D collaboration and attract scientists from all over the world helping to solve global challenges.”

In accordance with the project, the innovative centre will be equipped with “a 200kW VVER research reactor, a multipurpose irradiation centre based on a gamma installation, a cyclotron radiopharmacy complex, engineering facilities, and various research laboratories” for the needs of healthcare, agriculture, industry, and many other sectors of Bolivia’s economy. The centre is therefore expected to be instrumental in combating oncological diseases as well as increasing the shelf life of the country’s food products and ensuring their safety and quality.

Furthermore, the joint endeavour provides new jobs for the country’s population: “100 percent of the personnel in charge of construction are Bolivian,” Russian consul in Bolivia Iakov Fedorov pointed out in late January 2021 as quoted by EA Bolivia, a radio station from El Alto. “The technology is Russian, but the workforce is from this country.”

“The Bolivian construction companies are actively involved in the CNTRD construction process,” Alexey Altynov, Vice President of JSC Rusatom Overseas, told the press this March. “For example, there are over 300 Bolivian citizens currently working on the site.”

The Phase 1 and 2 facilities are due to be handed over to the customer in autumn 2021, according to Altynov, while Phase 3 and 4 of the project – i.e. construction and equipment of R&D laboratories, as well as construction of a research reactor – are expected to be completed in 2024.

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