Rusatom Healthcare (part of Rosatom) on 26 July signed a non-binding agreement with the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation of (Necsa)  to cooperate on non-power applications of nuclear technology, particularly nuclear medicine.

The agreement was signed on the sidelines of the BRICS  (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit. 

Rusatom Healthcare and Necsa will "explore the full potential of deepening mutually beneficial cooperation in the sphere of innovation and technological development related to peaceful uses of nuclear energy", 
Rosatom said. 

Rusatom Healthcare and Necsa plan the construction of two innovative "solution reactors" - small-scale and relatively inexpensive reactors designed specifically for the cost-effective production of medical radioisotopes. They also plan to construct a commercial cyclotron "to further increase the production capacity of nuclear medicine in the region" and to roll out cancer treatment centres across the African continent and Russia.

Denis Cherednichenko, director general of Rusatom Healthcare, said: "Both parties have a great deal of experience in this sector and we believe that a combined effort will open up new markets and hasten new technological advancements in the sector. Nuclear medicine is rapidly expanding globally and plays a vitally important role in the early detection of cancers and other non-communicable diseases." He added: "Together with our very experienced counterparts in South Africa, we feel that we could truly make a difference to the lives of millions across the globe." 

Rusatom Healthcare was established to develop nuclear medicine and innovative product processing technologies in Russia and abroad. It incorporates JSC V/O Isotope, JSC National Technical Physics & Automation Research Institute  (NIITFA),  JSC LYa Karpov Scientific Research Institute of Physics & Chemistry (NIFKhI), JSC Rusreactor and two centres for production of fluorine-based ultra-short-lived radionuclides for Positron Emission Tomography  (PET)-diagnostics. 

Necsa subsidiary NTP Radioisotopes  is a key producer and distributor of molybdenum-99, currently supplying between one-quarter and one-third of global demand. It also produces radioisotope-based diagnostic imaging and therapy products, including iodine-131 and lutetium-177, and is a leading supplier of irradiation services and radioactive sealed sources including caesium-137, iridium-192, and cobalt-60.

Nuclear power?

While South Africa cannot afford a large-scale expansion of its nuclear power capacity, it would still be open to future deals with Russia, Reuters reported on 26 July, citing a senior ruling party official in run-up to the BRICS summit. 

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa reversed the policies of his predecessor Jacob Zuma, putting nuclear expansion on the back burner after taking office in February, saying it is too expensive. 

The nuclear expansion deal backed by Zuma had envisaged adding an additional 9600MWe, and Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom had hoped to win contracts for a number of nuclear plants.

Rosatom is "still interested" in helping South Africa expand its nuclear capacity, according to Dmitry Shornikov, Rosatom's chief executive for central and southern Africa. "If there is a place for nuclear energy in the energy mix, we are happy to cooperate," he told Reuters.

Photo: The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation and Rusatom Healthcare sign an agreement to cooperate in the non-power related uses of nuclear technology on the sidelines of BRICS Summit (Photo: Rosatom)

Date: Monday, 30 July 2018
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