Rwanda’s Vision 2050, aimed at citizen-centred prosperity and improving the quality of life for all, sets a target of achieving an upper-middle-income status by 2035 and a high-income status by 2050.
As every country enters 2021 grappling with economic recovery from the effects of the pandemic, nuclear science and technology are supposed to play an essential role in Rwanda’s future growth, in various economy sectors.
It’s expected that in the next few years Rwanda will implement The Center for Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST), a cutting-edge project based on a multi-purpose research reactor that provides a wide range of applications.
The respected agreement was signed between Rwanda and Russia represented by its State Nuclear Corporation Rosatom in October 2019.
It’s all about neutrons and radioisotopes
Despite many misconceptions, as opposed to a power reactor, a research reactor does not generate electricity but provide a neutron source for research and other purposes.
Other elements that can be produced with the help of a research reactor are radioisotopes used in a variety of applications in medical, industrial, and scientific fields; tracing the flow of contaminants in biological systems to determining metabolic processes in some animals.
“It’s important to convey the distinction between CNST and a nuclear power plant projects to the general public. CNST is designed mainly for scientific purposes while an NPP produces energy for electricity supply,” said Dmitry Vysotsky, Vice President for CNST Projects at Rusatom Overseas (Rosatom Group).
“Nevertheless, we see some false announcements in media that Rwanda is going to build an NPP when currently the country’ intention is to implement a CNST project”, emphasized Vysotsky.
CNST can be equipped with various laboratories for carrying out different types of research that help to develop environmental programs, detect the age of archaeological or biological findings, select potentially productive genotypes to increase crop yields.
“Starting from industrial use and geology and ending up with agriculture and fighting with viruses, the range of non-power nuclear technologies are really extraordinary. CNST consists of many elements for our partners to choose and assemble according to their needs”, added Dmitry Vysotsky.
In addition to laboratories, CNST may include a Multipurpose Irradiation Center, a special facility for sterilization of medical instruments and tools such as gloves, masks and personal protective equipment. This same facility also offers services for food and agricultural products treatment to prolong their shelf life.
Another important element of CNST is a Nuclear Medicine Center which embraces state-of-the-art technologies for healthcare development. Today’s advanced nuclear medicine techniques with the use of radiopharmaceuticals provide cancer early diagnosis and treatment which highly raises the chances for patients’ recovery. They also allow diagnosing cardiovascular and other body systems.
“In a long run CNST could become a pillar for further development of the nuclear program in Rwanda as it implies establishing specific rules and regulations with highest attention to safety and security requirements and staff training.
It certainly lays the ground for strong international collaborations with overseas counterparts that focus on research reactors and nuclear-focused multinational organizations,” Vysotsky noted.
Experience and education
It’s no wonder that application of nuclear technology is a serious undertaking requiring long-term commitment and dedicated effort. Responsibilities, leadership, oversight functions, and organizational and technical capabilities are vital to a nuclear power program’s ultimate success.
Rwanda’s two key partners – International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom with decades-long knowledge and experience support Rwanda in its endeavor to develop a nuclear industry.
Founded in 1957, IAEA ensures that nuclear technology is used only for peaceful purposes to improve the well-being and prosperity ofpeople which is expressed in the organization’s motto “The Atoms for Peace and Development.
As for Russia, a country has 75 years of experience in nuclear industry and a stellar track record of different types of nuclear facilities built and operated across the world.
One of the first outcomes of Rosatom and Rwanda partnership within CNST project is building human capacity.
Up to this day over 50 Rwandan students received bursaries from the Russian government and are currently studying nuclear technology and related courses at the top Russian universities. Once graduated, these students will become the foundation of the Rwanda nuclear program.
Rwanda’s Minister of Infrastructure, Ambassador Claver Gatete highlighted the advancement in science and technology stated in the country’s Vision 2050: “We cannot ignore the potential nuclear industry presents to us. Any country on the development path globally uses elements that comprise nuclear technology, from scanners on doorways to radiology equipment in hospitals”.
There is no doubt that the support of a well-renowned international body such as IAEA and an experienced partner such as Rosatom will help Rwanda achieve Vision 2050 goals faster.