The huge potential of using nuclear technologies outside of energy production, for example, in agriculture and medicine, opens the doors to the world “atomic club” for many new countries. In Africa, Zambia claims to be one of them, with the Center for Nuclear Science and Technology to be created with the support of the Russian State Corporation Rosatom. The implementation this high-technological project involves the training of local qualified personnel with the help of Russian specialists. Zambian scientists and students already have the opportunity to improve their skills in the field of nuclear technology both in Russia and at home.
On April 22 leading Russian universities, including the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI, the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia and Tomsk Polytechnic University, held a large educational event in Zambia. An open lecture on non-energy applications of nuclear technologies was held at the University of Zambia in Lusaka, a lecture on modern nuclear energy was held at Copperbelt University in Kitwe, and students of the David Kaunda and Munali schools were told about the role and place of Russia in training personnel in the field of nuclear engineering.
A series of similar lectures and workshops is now being held in other African countries – Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and others. All of them are interested in developing nuclear technologies in partnership with Russia, but the first steps in this direction are traditionally not easy. “In the modern world, for many reasons, there exists a public opinion and a number of negative stereotypes associated with nuclear technologies. This is especially true for countries that are just beginning to consider the possibilities of nuclear technologies and have no experience in their application,” explains Vera Verkhoturova, Head of International Nuclear Educational Programs at the Tomsk Polytechnic University’s (TPU) School of Nuclear Technology Engineering.
Health Care from Siberia
It is this Russian university, located thousands of kilometers from Zambia in the large academic center of Siberia, the city of Tomsk, that has undertaken to develop and conduct a set of lectures on the non-energy application of nuclear and radiation technologies for African countries. The university has an active research reactor unit, a cyclotron complex and accelerator facilities, which allow to demonstrate the capabilities and prospects of modern technologies on the example of one of the most popular and promising areas – nuclear medicine.
“We are explaining that both the reactor and the cyclotron can be used for the production of radioisotopes that are essential parts of radiopharmaceuticals that are applied in nuclear medicine for cancer diagnosis and treatment of,” says Vera Verkhotruova. “By doing this, we demonstrate to our African partners that modern nuclear and radiation technologies, in terms of non-energy applications, bring health to the country’s population and help fight one of the most terrible diseases of our day, which is cancer. They provide a real opportunity to treat people with forms of cancer that were previously considered fatal.”
The Center for Nuclear Science and Technology (CNST), which is planned to be established in the suburbs of Lusaka, will also include a cyclotron-based nuclear medicine facility. Therefore, the current lectures of Russian scientists are very important for the training of Zambian specialists who will work at the center.
Verkhoturova adds that in addition to nuclear medicine, African partners should receive information on the possibilities of nuclear and radiation technologies for agriculture. We are talking primarily about the preservation of crops and pest control, which allows us to solve the problems of providing food to the population.
“During a series of open online lectures, Russian universities together with Rosatom, demonstrate to the academic and educational community of African countries that modern nuclear and radiation technologies bring peace, health and food security to the population with their overall environmental safety. Health and food are the two most important things for a resident of any country on our planet. For African countries, this is doubly important,” emphasized Verkhoturova.
One of the areas of cooperation between Russian researchers and the universities of Zambia is the training of personnel in Russian universities.
In particular, Tomsk Polytechnic University, with the support of the State Corporation Rosatom, implements English-language master’s and postgraduate programs in the field of Nuclear Science and Technology. Within the framework of the master’s program, students from African countries, including Zambia, can choose such fields as Nuclear medicine, Nuclear Power Engineering, Nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation of nuclear materials as their specialization.
The development of nuclear medicine technologies in TPU has been going on since 1980. It is at this University (TPU) that the only research reactor unit in Russia is located, which allows to develop technologies for obtaining new radiopharmaceuticals and methods of neutron capture therapy for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, heart diseases, lung diseases, a number of children’s diseases, etc. More than 200 neutron therapy procedures for breast, head and neck cancers have already been performed at the TPU research cyclotron.
Another in-house development of Tomsk scientists is betatron, which allows you to replace a long period of treatment with a five-minute procedure. The main areas of its application include intraoperative radiation therapy, surface radiation therapy and industrial tomography. The future will see a study of a new direction of nuclear medicine “Theranostics”, combining therapy and diagnostics. This project is aimed at creating a new class of drugs for targeted therapy of malignant neoplasms.
According to Mrs. Verkhoturova, the most crucial point for Zambian students studying at the Russian university is the fact that all the training takes place on existing installations and equipment. In the future, the unique Russian project of the Center for Nuclear Science and Technology will give all partner countries an excellent opportunity to be successful in various areas of nuclear technologies applications.