Bolivia takes a decisive step towards the peaceful use of

Bolivia takes a decisive step towards the peaceful use of nuclear energy

By Jorge Petinaud Martinez

Chief correspondent in Bolivia

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

It is an institution that aims to benefit the health, industrial, science and technology sectors as well as contribute to the education and training of human resources in the application of nuclear technology to provide solutions to various problems in the country.

“We advance on the path of development, science and technology as a dignified and sovereign people,” the president wrote in his letter

Meanwhile, an institutional communication from the Bolivian Agency for Nuclear Energy (ABEN), sent to Prensa Latina, ensures that the highland country implements projects for the benefit of the people within the framework of the program it is implementing in this area, and one of them is the city from El Alto.

The text adds that this reactor is unique because it is located more than four thousand meters above sea level in the eighth district of this city. Regarding its characteristics, he specified that it is a temperate pool with light water cooling and a thermal output of 200 kilowatts.

“This feature makes it the first facility of its kind at this altitude and opens up a whole range of possibilities for research,” said Erlan Vásquez, a nuclear engineering specialist at ABEN.

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

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

“Unlike the (…) power reactors used to generate electricity, these reactors focus on the research and development of technologies related to nuclear energy,” explained Vázquez.

In terms of possible uses, he described the spectrum as broad, encompassing everything from environmental, industrial and mining applications to the forensic sector.

The expert clarified that this type of plant allows the production of radioisotopes suitable for improving the management of water resources. Another important area is neutron activation analysis in mining, which will serve to identify minerals of national interest and areas with exploitable potential, Vázquez concluded.


The inauguration of the third Center for Nuclear Medicine and Radiation Therapy (CMNyR) last November by President Arce confirmed the strength of the program for the peaceful use of the atom in Bolivia in 2023.

Hortensia Jiménez, CEO of ABEN, assured in statements to Prensa Latina that the commitment to put this high-tech health complex into operation will be fulfilled in 2023.

Jiménez told this news agency that after this inauguration, the country has three facilities of this type to combat oncological diseases.

Bolivia's first CMNyR was inaugurated on March 6, 2022 in the Parcopata area in the city of El Alto in the presence of Arce and Vice President David Choquehuanca.

The dignitary was also present at the opening of the CMNyR of Santa Cruz on the occasion of the 212th anniversary of that department's libertarian 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, for which this network of sanatoriums has specialized Bolivian professionals.

The modern infrastructure was built with an investment of more than 50 million dollars each and enables advanced diagnostics and treatments.

To fulfill the first function, the nuclear medicine department has two state-of-the-art devices: a positron emission tomography (PET/CT) and another for single photon emission (Spect/CT).

The first enables the precise location of a tumor in the human body and the second makes it easier to detect and control bone, heart and brain diseases.

In addition, modern facilities have three areas for the treatment of oncological diseases, one for external beam radiation therapy, with two linear accelerators, a duplication that prevents operations from being interrupted if one of the devices needs maintenance.

High dose rate brachytherapy relies on cobalt 60 as a radiation source and has advanced technology that reduces cervical cancer treatment from 72 continuous hours to less than one.

In the field of chemotherapy, oncologists have the qualifications to carry out all the necessary combinations of drugs and antibodies to achieve the greatest possible effectiveness in fighting the disease, it said.

According to the managing director of ABEN, such a facility can serve up to 120 people daily and has a multidisciplinary team of doctors, physicists, engineers and technicians.

Another advantage for Bolivians is the free provision of all these services through the unified health system funded by the national government.

Ambitious program

As part of this program, the Cyclotron-Preclinical Radiopharmacy Complex was inaugurated in March 2023, with which Bolivia began the sovereign production of radiopharmaceuticals.

This advanced complex began producing the anti-cancer radiopharmaceutical fluorodeoxyglucose, one of the most commonly used compounds in PET studies, and is distributed in the network of Nuclear Medicine and Radiation Therapy Centers to enable early and accurate diagnosis of cancer.

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

Another important success: Last October, the multi-purpose radiation center began operations, in which the microbial contamination of food, hygiene products and other products, including already packaged, is disinfected and eliminated through the action of ionizing gamma rays on products. Located in the eighth district of El Alto, this complex supports the agribusiness, agricultural sector, pharmaceutical industry and also the preservation of cultural heritage, applications that strengthen government policies aimed at security and sovereignty in these areas.

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


All these technological advances are already having a multidisciplinary impact on Bolivian society, which is beginning to transform its educational process in order to strengthen the 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 the management of the nuclear reactor at the research center in the city of El Alto.

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

At the end of September, an expert mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), led by engineer Vivian Pereira, visited the country with the aim of strengthening the activities of the highland state's regulatory authority for nuclear safety and radiation protection.

During the work visit, these specialists gave presentations on the project “Improving nuclear physical security through sustainable management of decommissioned radioactive sources, their inventory, storage and code of conduct”.

In addition, the Mission provided Bolivia with the opportunity to manage the removal of Category I and II radioactive sources due to disuse or technology change and to host a Spanish-language regional policy and strategy development workshop this year.

This will undoubtedly lead to the harmonization of quality assurance systems in the highlands, which will have an impact on other sectors of the economy and society.

Pereira's visit to Bolivia coincided with the participation of Minister of Hydrocarbons and Energy Franklin Molina and Hortensia Jiménez in the 67th General Conference of the IAEA in Vienna, Austria, a forum where Bolivia's voice will be heard with interest.