published on August 19, 2016 in the ENERGY ADVISOR a weekly publication of the dialogue


Question:  Russian nuclear power company Rosatom and the Bolivian Atomic Energy Agency, or ABEN,
have signed their first commercial contracts on a $300 million project to construct a center for nuclear technology research in Bolivia. Is nuclear the best option for gas-rich Bolivia to pursue? Why has Russia decided to partner with Bolivia on nuclear energy? What will the facility mean for Bolivia’s power
production capacity

Answer: Mauricio Becerra de la Roca Donoso, managing partner at BDA Abogados SRL: “On March 9, President Evo Morales issued Supreme Decree 2697, creating the Bolivian Nuclear Energy Agency (ABEN) as a public institution with the purpose of developing, supplying and commercializing goods
and services
of nuclear technology with peaceful ends. The ABEN will build the Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo en Tecnología Nuclear (CIDTN), which will be the biggest nuclear facility in South America. The government initially planned to establish the research complex on the outskirts of La Paz, but protests by residents of the city scrapped that plan. The government now plans to build the complex on a 50-acre site in El Alto, an industrial city adjoining La Paz. Bolivia and Russia’s state-owned atomic energy corporation, Rosatom, have signed this month in Moscow the first commercial contracts for the construction of the $300 million CIDTN. The center will include a research reactor, a cyclotron for radiopharmaceuticals and a multi-purpose gamma irradiation plant. Opposition politicians have criticized the project over fears of environmental risks.
Bolivia has one of the biggest reserves of natural gas in South America, and while some other Latin American countries are halting or abandoning the construction of new nuclear plants, including Brazil, Mexico and even Cuba, which received an offer of $800 million from Russia to finish the construction of
the nuclear plant in Juragua and declined for unknown reasons, the government of Bolivia believes this will be a viable project to use nuclear plants not only in power-generation but also in science, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and other uses. In any case, the high costs associated with these kinds of projects
need very clear projected returns to make them viable—perhaps energy export to Peru, Brazil and other neighbor countries could be feasible. It is very difficult to anticipate what the facility will mean for Bolivia’s power production capacity, because the proposed nuclear power generation specifics are yet to be disclosed, but it will certainly increase the 2.62 percent participation of alternative and nuclear energy of total energy use in Bolivia, which was last measured in 2011.”