Technicians from the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) are progressing in the final stages of the construction of the RA-10 Multipurpose Argentine Nuclear Reactor, the most recent of its kind in the southern hemisphere and to promote national progress in health research; science, art and industry.
The RA-10 was built at the Ezeiza Atomic Center, located in the Buenos Aires region of the same name, where the RA-3 had also operated since 1967, replacing it as the main provider of medical radioisotopes in the region.
The new reactor will reach 30 MW, tripling the power of RA-3, and its facilities of the Fission Radioisotope Production Plant (PPRF), Argentine Neutron Tram Laboratory (LAHN), Irradiated Material Testing Laboratory (LEMI) and Industrial Plant for Research Reactor Fuel Elements (PIECRI).
Herman Blaumann, a nuclear engineer graduated from the Balseiro Institute and manager of the RA-10 project, stated in an interview with Télam that “this reactor aims to ensure the provision of the national demand for radioisotopes for medical treatments and other applications, the responsibility that still has RA-3 which is already 60 years old was born and in this way we prevented his departure from the service”.
“The RA-10 includes in its design more than 60 years of development of nuclear technology in Argentina, it is based on the OPAL reactor that is being built by INVAP for Australia, but it has more than 50 percent of the power that we incorporate in this facility to be the machines. The possibility of experiments with nuclear fuels, the access of the scientific community to provide neutron technology research or the production of irradiated inputs for energy technology,” he said.
Molybdenum 99 is a radioisotope that is used more and more in the world for the diagnosis of diseases, with worldwide interest in other radioisotopes for therapeutic use also growing.
RA-10 and the Fission Radioisotope Production Plant (PPRF) will meet national needs and can contribute to global demand, given the opportunity offered by the decommissioning of several production reactors.
The engineer stated that “RA-10 has the ability to meet 20 percent of the world’s demand for molybdenum 99, which is the most requested radioisotope in treatments such as scintigrams or gamma rays, and also allows its capabilities to test irradiated fuels.” We are doing things in Argentina that we had to do outside the country, for example, the elements of the CAREM reactor were to be tested in the reactor in Norway”.
“Another application of RA-10 allows it to be irradiated with phosphorous, a semiconductor made of silicon doped, and it is very much in demand in the power of electronic applications such as the manufacture of electric cars, it is expected to have a production of about 80 tons per year and there are already several companies involved in that production they can be contacted for purchase,” he said.
In addition, RA-10 together with the Irradiated Materials Testing Laboratory (LEMI) will be able to investigate the behavior of nuclear materials, developing facilities to produce and qualify new fuel and components for reactors and future experimental power.
Blaumann commented that “the laboratory for the testing of irradiated materials is a facility that, in addition to testing the elements of the nuclear industry, will also give the various industries of Argentina the opportunity to further their technological progress.”
Neutron techniques are today the leading tools for extreme research and development in Materials Science, Biology and Biochemistry; RA-10, together with the Argentinian Jugo Laboratorio Neutron (LAHN), combines world-class instruments with these techniques for the scientific-technological community.
LAHN will offer the first and only world-class neutral technology facility in Latin America, which will become a scientific-technological pole for science, innovation and development.
“Few countries in the world have the necessary resources to build a reactor, RA-10 effects of continuity, with its varieties, Argentine nuclear, the Argentine Neutron Beam Laboratory (LAHN) will also promote integration and synergy between different scientific disciplines, in addition to a unique capacity in Latin America, which completes the cyclotron installed in Brazil, for this whole project is not only an arrival, but above all a departure”, he explained.
It is estimated that the civil works will be completed in three months, then it will not have a fixed time.
“Next year the tests will be carried out with the cold plant, and at the end of 2024 or the beginning of 2025 we will start the “hot” tests until the criticality of the reactor is reached,” concluded Blaumann.
This project follows a line of technological development whose immediate relation is Project OPAL, the most recent reactor for the production of radioisotopes, which Argentina, through INVAP, built in Australia in 2007.
At the same time, CEA has already started the process of training the operations staff and the development of future users to ensure the full use of the reactor.