The upload of additional cobalt absorbents into the third power block’s reactor has been finalized at the Smolensk NPP (city of Desnogorsk, Smolensk region). Now, all three power blocks of the NPP make their contribution to the production of this valuable isotope for health care and manufacturing.

Nikita Konstantinov, Business development director at the Rosenergoatom Joint-Stock Company, made the following comment on this key milestone in the new business development initiative by the Rosatom State Corporation: ‘Previously, the Leningrad NPP was the only one to be involved in the production of Co-60. The large-scale project by the Rosenergoatom Joint-Stock Company aimed at modern radiation technology development started in 2016. As of now, 7 RBMK power blocks of the Smolensk, Kursk and Leningrad NPP are involved in the production of Co-60. All expected output of Co-60 to be produced during the power blocks’ operation has already been contracted. This radionuclide is getting more and more traction on the global market as a source of wanted radiation’.

He stressed that this was the reason why the prospective Company’s plans encompass an assignment of increasing the production of Co-60 and other wanted isotopes in the nearest future, including the option of using reactor assemblies of a different design.

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In the meantime, Pavel Lubenskiy, the director of the Smolensk NPP, said: ‘The Smolensk NPP’s RBMK reactors can both produce electric and heat power in a stable and reliable way and output valuable products as a part of the operations, the demand for which is growing rapidly both in our country and abroad. Using this unique possibility will help the Russian nuclear power industry remain one of the global leaders in delivering radioisotopes used in the health care, manufacturing and agriculture’.

Facilities based on Co-60 isotopes are used for X-ray therapy, sterilizing medical tools, pasteurization of groceries, which extends their longevity, fosters the growth and fertility of cereals and vegetable crops, purifies and neutralizes industrial effluents. According to the experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization, this type of radiation is non-hazardous.

Valuable radioisotopes are generated from natural cobalt (Co-59) during neutron absorption, which is why an ideal place for its production is an NPP nuclear reactor.

‘It is important that additional cobalt absorbents in parallel with the isotope production facilitate safe reactor operation since the void coefficient is maintained within the limits set forth in the standard operating procedure’, Alexander Abaimov, the deputy chief engineer of the Smolensk NPP, said.

The irradiation process to gain the necessary activity lasts for 5 years, which means that in 2022 the extraction of additional cobalt absorbents will begin at the Smolensk NPP’s first power block for the valuable isotopes to be prepared for the delivery to the customer.