Cuba: An example of the use of nuclear energy for the benefit of mankind
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- 01 / 21 / 2009
The application of nuclear techniques in our country goes back into the 40s, when the National Commission for Atomic Energy Applications for civilian uses, formed by the government of Grau San Martin, was created. Among the objectives of the Commission previously mentioned are: to boost nuclear research and its applications, mainly for medical purposes, and distribute drugs or radioactive substances in public and private hospitals, among others.
Then, the main application of nuclear energy in developed countries was the use of radioactivity for therapeutic purposes in medicine, that is where they started.
In these early years in Cuba there were few X-ray therapy units and one unit with radon, a radioactive gas. From 1947 to 1948 the "Radio needles" for skin cancer treatment were introduced.
The real steps
Back in the 50s, the first steps in the thyroid cancer treatment with radioactive iodine and phosphorus were carried out, but it was not until 1958 that Cuba introduced in the first "bomb" for cobalt radiation therapy. The management was due to the initiative of two Cuban doctors and was set in the Juan Bruno Zayas Institute for Radium, for public and private use.
In industry X-ray defectoscopy is used sporadically, and some U.S. companies used nuclear instruments for oil exploration.
While the creation of the Commission was an important moment, the applications made during those years were mainly due to the activities of individual scientists, so the results in the country were not significant. The real steps for the assimilation of science and technology were only carried out after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. The background of this development are expressed by Fidel back in 1953, when he made his historic declaration La Historia me absorverá, were he stated that: '... the possibilities of bringing electricity to the farthest corner of the island are now greater than ever, the application of nuclear energy on that branch of the industry is now a reality, which will make lower its production cost considerably. "
But first we needed a Revolution, whose main task was to begin to change the background of the island until that moment, and creating the foundations for future development, which was impossible without an adequate scientific and technical infrastructure. The clearest expression of this was stated by Fidel in 1963 when he said: "The social revolution was precisely to create the other revolution: the technical revolution."
Among the first institutions founded were the National Center for Scientific Research (CENIC), the National Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology (INOR) and later the Institute of Nuclear Physics (IFN), which later become the National Institute for Nuclear Research (ININ) of the Cuban Academy of Science.
The IFN was inaugurated by our Commander in Chief on January 8, 1969 to start the training of nuclear specialists, stimulate the use of radioactive sources and the basis for the design of a nuclear development program.
During the 70's progress continued in various areas related to the peaceful use of
nuclear energy. The use of radioactive sources and radio-isotopes techniques spread into new branches of medicine and other sectors. The Energy and Nuclear Physics departments were created at the University of Havana.
In 1974 the National Commission for the peaceful use and applications of Atomic Energy was created. In 1976, as part of a bigger intergovernmental agreement, signed with the Soviet Union, the construction of the first nuclear power plant (CEN) was included.
At the beginning of the 80´s nuclear activity was restructured through the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission of Cuba, which coordinated the national efforts in this activity. In addition were created the Executive Secretariat of Nuclear Affairs (SEAN) later the Nuclear Energy and Advanced Technologies Agency, with a system of institutions responsible for the implementing of the policies outlined in the nuclear program and to provide support for scientific and technological applications in different branches of the economy.
The Cuban nuclear program that emerged at that time had three fundamental bases: nuclear energy or electricity production from nuclear sources, the introduction of nuclear technology in various sectors of the economy and the establishment of radiation protection and nuclear safety.
While the in the 90´s the nuclear energy option had to be abandoned and the building of the nuclear power plant in Juraguá, considered "the work of the century" at the beginning, finally stopped for financial reasons, the Cuban program was not stopped, but was redirected and began to further enhance the applications of nuclear and radiological safety and security with very positive results.
Moreover, the cultural balance of the attempt to build a nuclear power plant showed the degree of preparation and experience achieved by the human resources that were trained to support that effort. There the role that experts and managers were prepared for was to address the nuclear energy program, this was turned in various fields of science and economy.
In our country there are now over 160 institutions from different agencies of the central State administration that benefit from the application of nuclear techniques. These are distributed among the ministries of Public Health, Food Industry, Basic Industry, Higher Education, Construction, Sugar Industry, Science, Technology, Environment, Agriculture and the General Customs Administration of the Republic.
The main applications are in medicine, hydrology, agriculture, livestock, and sugar industries, mining and metallurgy, and in geological prospecting for minerals and oil.
In the health nuclear techniques are essential in radio-therapy, nuclear medicine and radiopharmaceutical production of preclinical and clinical research of drugs, in agriculture and food, for the creation of new more resistant varieties of crops and to preserve food.
In industry, to evaluate the operation of facilities and forecast reserves of oil fields, among others. It occupies an important place in the study of water resources, the environmental research and protection of the marine and terrestrial environments.
Cuba's nuclear program has reached a high degree of maturity and has a staff with high qualifications, experience and commitment to the revolution, capable of facing the challenges of this new technology.
In the 50 years since the victory of the Revolution and the 40 years since the foundation of IFN, the results of the nuclear program are, without question, part of what the Commander in Chief envisioned in 1960 when he said: "The future of our country has to be necessarily a future of scientists, men of thought."