By introducing the attendees to a research reactor, a cyclotron, betatrons and nuclear medicine equipment the program sought to equip them with skills in using this technology to do research and train nuclear physicists and nuclear medicine physicians in their home countries.
The ten-day course, which lasted through November 29, had been commissioned by Rosatom, Russia’s state-run nuclear energy corporation, and hosted by Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU). TPU is a participant in Project 5-100, a Russian government-funded initiative aimed at making this country’s top universities more competitive globally.
All attendees came from Rosatom’s partner countries, a total of thirteen hailing from Ghana, Nigeria, Egypt and Zambia, and one apiece from Bolivia and Serbia. They studied the workings of a research nuclear reactor, cyclotrons and nuclear medical equipment and took crash courses in radiopharmaceutical production and the basics of neutron activation analysis, while exploring the potential use of these technologies in research and education.
The program was a one-of-a-kind experience for several reasons. First, the TPU reactor is the only one in Russia that can be used to provide training to foreign nationals. Second, the program spanned multiple locations, from university lecture hall to reactor building to state-of-the-art cancer treatment facility (namely, the Tomsk Regional Oncology Center whose radiology wing houses the nuclear medical equipment that was involved in the training). Third, the participants were exposed to truly unique technology, such as TPU-designed betatrons, which are the smallest existing particle accelerators.
One program attendee, Justine Salu Karniliyus of the Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission (NAEC), relates that, at Rosatom’s invitation, he traveled to Tomsk to view the cyclotron, research reactor and radiopharmaceutical operations. The experience he gained is all the more valuable because Nigeria plans to start manufacturing radiopharmaceuticals at its own research reactor facility over the next few years, a project of vast importance to a country that currently imports medical radioisotopes, mostly from France, at great expense. NAEC hopes for Rosatom’s assistance in setting up radioisotope production in Nigeria to help combat cancer, says Justine Karniliyus.