Last year, the companies State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC) —one of the largest Chinese electric infrastructure companies and operator of China’s nuclear power plants— and Shangai Nuclear Engineering Research and Design Institute (SNERDI) —a renowned reactor design center— contacted INVAP with the interest in collaborating on issues related to experimental nuclear reactors and radioisotope production plants for medical uses.
The process is in the early defining stages. As usual in these cases, the technical and commercial aspects of international scope entail several stages and cycles of participation of the protagonists involved.
The recent presidential visit to Beijing, accompanied by the Governor of the Province of Río Negro, ratified the path initiated. It is expected that the remission of the pandemic will permit professionals and technicians to travel between China and Argentina so as to speed up the process by taking the next steps.
China has recently formulated a national plan to produce Molybdenum-99 and other radioisotopes for medical use, most of which are currently imported. Thus, China’s government intends to build in the country a major research and radioisotope production center for nuclear medicine. This plan has awakened the interest from several industrial groups of the Asian country to work on the subject.
It is worth mentioning that Argentina, through the National Commission of Atomic Energy (CNEA, in Spanish), developed during the 1990s a new technology for producing Molybdenum-99 —the radioisotope most used in nuclear medicine, based on low-enriched uranium (LEU)—, aimed at reducing the risk of proliferation and awarded by the international community. Since then, equipment and plants based on this technology have been exported, complementing the value chain of reactors exported by INVAP, as in the cases of Egypt, Australia, Algeria, India and the Netherlands.
Besides, some years ago, INVAP successfully provided China with cold neutron source equipment for an experimental reactor used for advanced studies in biology, chemistry and materials physics.