A large consignment of germanium-76 isotope has been shipped to Germany under the contract between Isotope JSC and the Technical University of Munich. The batch was produced by PA Electrochemical Plant JSC (ECP, Zelenogorsk, Krasnoyarsk region; an enterprise of TVEL Fuel Company of Rosatom).
Germanium-76 has been supplied for the joint international research collaboration LEGEND (Large Enriched Germanium Experiment for Neutrinoless ββ Decay), which studies the properties of neutrino, an elementary particle. Scientists believe that registration of neutrinoless double beta decay of a nucleus will be a major discovery in modern physics and another significant step towards understanding the fundamental properties of matter.
The LEGEND collaboration was established as a result of unification of two major international scientific projects – the European GERDA and the North-American Majorana – both experiments were searching for the double neutrinoless beta decay using detectors made of germanium-76, which had been produced by ECP (at the plant, the substance is enriched up to the required isotope purity in a cascade of gas centrifuges). The new project has been joined by other research groups that were engaged in similar experiments, the collaboration now comprises more than 50 research organizations around the world, including about 30 in Russia.
The merging of these projects made it possible for scientists to consolidate research results as well as financial resources. The specific feature of such is that they require large amounts of isotope products. Researchers estimate that the joint collaboration could use more than 1000 kg of germanium-76.
“For more than 10 years, Rosatom has been supplying stable isotopes for neutrino research projects, meanwhile the most recent contract was concluded following a competitive international tender. Once again, the Electrochemical Plant has perfectly fulfilled all the high requirements of our foreign customer. Within a very short timeframe, the plant manufactured a large batch weighing more than 20 kg”, Rustam Rakhmatulin, Director General of Isotope JSC, noted.
Over the years of participation in neutrino research projects, Rosatom’s subsidiaries not only mastered the production of necessary isotope products, but also solved a number of nonconventional tasks related to export shipments, developing complex logistics supply schemes from Siberia to Europe. Intermediate storage of products is arranged in an underground repository in a specially made sarcophagus that protects the isotopes from cosmic radiation. In addition, ECP specialists have developed a special shipping packaging container that performs the same functions as the underground sarcophagus.
Beside germanium-76 for the LEGEND collaboration, ECP also produces molybdenum-100 for another major neutrino research project, AMORE (Republic of Korea).
TVEL Fuel Company of Rosatom is the world leader in stable isotope production with a global market share of 40%. The Electrochemical Plant in Zelenogorsk alone produces 107 stable isotopes of 21 chemical elements. At the same time, the enterprise is developing its unique competence in radioactive isotopes enrichment in gas centrifuges.