23 February 2024

After 12 years of hard work, the implementation of the Argentine Multipurpose Nuclear Reactor RA-10 is on its way to becoming a fact. The RA-10 is being built by the Argentine National Commission of Atomic Energy (CNEA, in Spanish), with INVAP as main contractor. The Reflector Tank, a key component of the project, completed the last validation tests after its manufacture in Bariloche and, on 27 February, it will start its journey to the Ezeiza Atomic Centre for its assembly inside the RA-10 Reactor Pool. The implementation of the reactor consolidates Argentina’s position as a regional leader in the nuclear area and in the production of experimental reactors in particular.

Exports of 90 million dollars

RA-10 will produce an exportable volume of radioisotopes worth approximately 90 million dollars per year and will promote scientific advances from the application of neutron techniques in areas such as materials science, condensed matter physics, chemistry, biology, among others. Meanwhile, production for medical applications will cover the local market and also supply Molybdenum-99 to 20% of the international market.

Herman Blaumann, RA-10 Manager for CNEA, points out: “The RA-10 consolidates a reference position in the world, in the nuclear area and in the production of experimental reactors, particularly in our country”.

Inside the Reflector Tank

The Reflector Tank, a complex piece of mechanical engineering, is made of a zirconium alloy called zircaloy, and is one of the “hearts” of the reactor. This tank is cylindrical in shape, with a diameter of two meters and a height of one and a half meters. It holds more than 2000 liters of heavy water, which as a reflector material generates a large volume of irradiation to enable all applications of the RA-10.

The completion of its manufacture is a milestone in itself, not only because of its relevance as a key reactor component, but also because it allows the start of installation activities inside the reactor pool. There are few countries in the world that have the capacity to design, manufacture and test such a component. This milestone completes the manufacturing stage of one of the most important components of the project and starting its on-site assemblage brings the entire project closer to the home stretch.

Potential, applications and benefits

The main features of the RA-10 include its  potential to increase the production capacity of medical radioisotopes for the local, regional and global market. Radioisotopes are essential in the diagnosis and treatment of different types of cancer and diseases such as heart disease and neurological disorders. Thus, the implementation of the RA-10 will be an important contribution to improving the quality of life of the population.

In addition to its applications in the field of nuclear medicine, the RA-10 complex will expand Argentina’s capabilities to produce, evaluate and qualify fuel elements for experimental and power reactors. It will also enable the development of technological applications  from the use of neutron techniques for basic research in fields such as nuclear engineering, materials science and technology, condensed matter physics, chemistry and biology.

Regarding this milestone, the RA-10 Project Manager for INVAP, Eng. Fernando Gutiérrez, stated that “the engineering and manufacturing stage of the Reflector Tank involved more than 100 people, and more than 100,000 hours of engineering. This project consolidates INVAP as a leading supplier of this type of reactors worldwide”.

INVAP S.E. is a national company that is a reference in the field of technological projects all over the world. The National Commission of Atomic Energy is the Argentinean body in charge of the promotion and development of nuclear technology in the country, and has a track record of more than 70 years in the development and use of research reactors.