Government Bodies
Flag Monday, 27 March 2023
Minsk Overcast sky +8°C
All news
All news
15 December 2022, 20:51

The diversity of nuclear technologies: what projects are being implemented in Belarus with Rosatom's help?

Stanislav Levitsky
Stanislav Levitsky

Nuclear power is always on the buzz, but this is far from the only area where nuclear technologies are used. They are now used in almost all areas of human activity. Those are radiation medicine, sterilization of food and medical devices, energy storage systems, and new materials. Research nuclear reactors are also promising. Director of OOO Rusatom Bel (Rosatom's country office in Belarus) Stanislav Levitsky came to BelTA's press center to talk about the projects Belarus is implementing together with Russia and about future prospects.

In his words, in addition to conventional energy areas Rosatom is simultaneously working on more than 80 new ones. Composite materials, additive technologies, waste management, radiation medicine, and a number of other areas are in the spotlight. “For most of them we are in very close contact with our Belarusian partners. Both industrial and scientific ties were established quite a long time ago. Now time has come for their implementation and practical realization,” Stanislav Levitsky is convinced.

The Belarusian nuclear power plant

Rosatom supplies nuclear fuel for the VVER-1200 reactors of the Belarusian nuclear power plant. “The next shipment of nuclear fuel has been planned. It will be the first delivery under a direct contract between TVEL Fuel Company and the state enterprise Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant., Deliveries had been previously made under the EPC contract, which includes initial loading and the first few refuelings. The fuel we offer meets all international requirements,” the executive stressed. “We are also ready to offer Belarus innovative remix fuel. A Rosatom delegation will visit Belarus in January to discuss it. We really hope that the use of remix fuel will improve the economic effect of the Belarusian nuclear power plant, reduce the capital intensity of construction of spent fuel storage sites.”

Stanislav Levitsky drew attention to the fact that in order to leave a clean green planet to children, you need to make every effort for this. Thus, Belarus drafted a strategy for radioactive waste management in 2022 with assistance of Rosatom experts. It has already gone through public discussion.

Now bilateral working groups have been formed on matters of radioactive waste management. Expert consultations and technical tours are being held. From 19 December to 22 December Russian specialists will take part in a seminar on legal regulation of radioactive waste management and other aspects of nuclear and radiation safety regulation. Participants of the seminar are expected to visit the Polesie State Radioecological Reserve as an object of the nuclear heritage of Belarus. In addition, the Russian side is ready to assist with designing the facility for the final isolation of radioactive waste.

“As for the decommissioning of nuclear and radiation-hazardous facilities, Rosatom is putting efforts into it and has already gained some experience. We are ready to assist with developing a concept for the decommissioning of the Belarusian nuclear power plant. It is very important to understand how it will be decommissioned and stipulate the financial model,” Stanislav Levitsky said.

He also said that plans had been made to jointly implement two significant interstate programs. One is a comprehensive program for the elimination of threats originating from nuclear legacy facilities in the CIS countries and the other one is a Union State program on improving approaches to radioactive waste management.

Research nuclear reactors

Stanislav Levitsky said: “The National Academy of Sciences of Belarus and the state corporation Rosatom are discussing the construction of a nuclear research reactor based on the united energy and nuclear research institute Sosny. We've agreed a preliminary configuration of the future nuclear research and technology center that will be built around a multipurpose research reactor. The production of the isotopes that healthcare industry may use is one of the key applications for such reactors. Isotope products need to be processed in order to make targeted radiopharmaceutical agents. But the capacity of a research reactor has to be calculated with future prospects in mind. In other words, it is necessary to work out the concept with a large planning corridor.”

Stanislav Levitsky pointed out that any research reactor is quite an expensive piece of equipment. In order to allow various countries to carry out such research projects, Rosatom is implementing a project to build an international research center around a multipurpose fast-neutron reactor. “Teams from seven countries are working there now. We are happy to invite colleagues from the Sosny institute to also participate in these projects,” the executive noted.

Tamara Korbut, Deputy Director General for Science of the united energy and nuclear research institute Sosny of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, pointed out that research reactors are used in over 50 countries across the globe. In comparison with nuclear power plants a research reactor is less complicated from the technical point of view and from the operational point of view. A research reactor opens up quite a lot of possibilities. It can be used to make radio isotopes, which do not exist naturally. A research reactor can be used to diagnose and treat cancer patients. A research reactor helps develops science-intensive manufacturing, various branches of the production sector. It helps study the structure of materials, the radiation tolerance of electronic products. It helps test materials and products, develop and introduce technologies for irradiating agricultural raw materials and food products. “In other words, this area has a lot of promise. We actively cooperate with our colleagues from Rosatom in this regard,” she said.

Food sterilization

Another area is the radiation treatment of food. The effect is similar to canning but does not involve chemicals. Irradiation technology deactivates chemicals and pesticides and extends the shelf life of food. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, food sterilization using ionizing radiation is a reliable way to treat food and agricultural products and it is safe for consumers.

“This application is extremely relevant. The Sosny institute already provides such services. Rosatom is currently implementing nine projects in the Russian Federation and is considering the implementation of a similar project in Belarus with one of the main partners,” Stanislav Levitsky said.

Nuclear medicine

Ionizing radiation can also be used to sterilize medical goods (syringes, bandages and dressings). But it is only one of the many applications for nuclear technologies in healthcare. Nuclear medicine in all its diversity is in the sphere of interests of the state corporation Rosatom. Opportunities are being explored by the medical division Rusatom Healthcare. One of the priorities for the division is to ensure uninterrupted supplies of both raw materials and finished isotope products for medicine, science and industry. Rosatom's reactors produce medical isotopes that are attached to carrier molecules to produce radiopharmaceuticals. Due to their special properties, radiopharmaceuticals make it possible to deliver radiation precisely to cancer cells without harming healthy tissues and organs.

“R&D work is now in progress in relation to several new targeted molecules. This is a science-intensive, complex and costly undertaking,” said Stanislav Levitsky.

An agreement was recently signed between Rusatom Healthcare and the Belarusian republican unitary enterprise Medtekhnotsentr. As part of the agreement Rosatom will supply Brachium medical equipment to Belarus for the treatment of cancer patients. The first commercial contract is already being negotiated. The complex for brachytherapy is intended for the complex treatment of oncological diseases of organs in the small pelvis, mammary glands, esophagus, nasopharynx and the oral cavity using contact radiation therapy. As part of brachytherapy cancer cells are exposed to intense radiation with minimal radiation impact on surrounding healthy tissues, which reduces radiation complications.

The executive emphasized that Brachium is a completely Russian product. “Its price does not depend on the volatility of the exchange rate. In addition, given the current logistical problems, it is of particular importance that the supply of ionizing radiation sources is guaranteed. We are ready to provide Brachium as part of a lifecycle contract: it includes the device itself and a constant supply of ionizing radiation sources,” he noted.

Specific dates have not yet been announced. As Stanislav Levitsky explained, the supply of such complex equipment, which has, among other things, an isotopic component, sources of ionizing radiation, must be thoroughly prepared in advance and approved by regulatory authorities. “Deliveries will be organized in accordance with the procurement system legislation of Belarus. We will hold introduction events for oncologists who will operate this equipment. We will be happy to invite colleagues so that they can get acquainted with the already installed devices. Then we will participate in tenders. This is the first option. As the second option we would like to offer Belarus a comprehensive program for reequipping oncology centers with brachytherapy equipment. We are ready to offer favorable prices once we understand Belarus' needs for next 5-7 years or ten years. We are also ready to offer financial resources for a large program. But so far this is just an idea,” he said.

“Apart from that, we have prospects for the implementation of cancer center projects based on linear accelerators in Belarus. There is an R&D product that has already been registered in the Russian Federation. I am talking about the linear accelerator Onyx. This is a targeted irradiation medical product. Onyx will be registered in Belarus. I hope that next year we will start promotion together with Medtekhnotsentr, we will think about deliveries by the end of the year,” Stanislav Levitsky added.

Aleksei Kaminsky, Head of the Production and Technical Department at Medtekhnotsentr, drew attention to the fact that the topic of nuclear medicine is especially relevant for Belarus after the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. “Equipment for the treatment of cancer patients is in great demand. Not many global manufacturers create such equipment, including Rusatom Healthcare. The attitude of unfriendly countries towards Belarus and Russia gave impetus to closer cooperation. I am sure that within the framework of this cooperation we will be able to fill this niche. In terms of characteristics, Russian equipment is not inferior to foreign counterparts and even beats competition in some ways. Rosatom has many years of experience in this area,” he said.

Energy storage systems

Another topical area is lithium energy sources. Belarus supports the green agenda. The country is implementing a comprehensive program for the development of electric transport in 2021-2025. OOO Renera (part of Rosatom's TVEL Fuel Company) and the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus have recently agreed to cooperate in the development of energy storage systems to provide a manufacturing and technological base and increase the number of electric-drive vehicles in Belarus. “By the way, the infrastructure in Belarus is much more developed than that in Russia,” Stanislav Levitsky said.

In his words, Rosatom is looking for a base partner in Belarus to localize the assembly of energy storage systems based on lithium sources. In addition, this year an agreement has been signed with BKM Holding for the delivery of Renera's lithium-ion batteries to make 97 trolleybuses with an increased autonomous range. The trolleybuses are intended for St Petersburg.

Vladimir Bobrov, Deputy Director for Energy Projects at OOO M-Industries, consultant at OOO Rusatom Bel (Rosatom's country office in Belarus), noted that people constantly use energy storage systems in everyday life. There are batteries everywhere - from a laptop to a car. “Energy storage systems also act as uninterruptible power supplies. And lithium-ion batteries made them more compact and capacious, which allows using them on an industrial scale,” he noted.

Belarus is now developing a concept for using electric energy storage systems. "It will help to better integrate the Belarusian nuclear power plant into the power grid since it will allow accumulating energy at night and discharging it during the day. In turn, it will allow smoothing out workload peaks and ensuring more economical modes of operation of power generators of the Belarusian power grid. It will also enable more comfortable and uninterrupted power supply to consumers,” Vladimir Bobrov said.

New materials

New technologies include not only new machines, tools, plant and equipment. To build them, you need materials. Requirements for materials in the nuclear industry and other science-intensive industries can be very unusual. Some materials have to endure radiation and high temperatures inside nuclear reactor vessels while other materials have to cope with high mechanical stress at low temperatures.

"We are constantly on the lookout for new materials. We barely knew how to make some materials until recently. For example, high-temperature superconductors were produced in very small batches as part of experimental work but now we are producing hundreds of tonnes of superconductors. Our superconductors are part of the common global fusion reactor project in Switzerland, said the OOO Rusatom Bel director.

Rosatom's composite division UMATEX has recently completed a deal to acquire assets of the American group Owens Corning in Russia and Belarus. UMATEX took over enterprises producing fiberglass and insulating materials in Vladimir Oblast and Tver Oblast as well as a trading house in Belarus. “Together with this trading house we will continue promoting these products in Belarus,” Stanislav Levitsky shared the plans.

“Apart from that, Rosatom has begun executing the first contract for the delivery of gas-cylinder equipment made of composite materials to the Belarusian automobile manufacturer MAZ. It allowed reducing the prime cost of MAZ products for consumers, increasing the cost effectiveness of transport. We see MAZ as one of our basic partners in Belarus. I am talking about the development of new products based on gas cylinders, composite floors for buses, load-bearing frames made of composite materials,” Stanislav Levitsky said. When a joint product is created, Rosatom plans to help MAZ promote it in third countries.

Subscribe to us
Recent news from Belarus