Closure of Portugal’s only nuclear reactor paves way for pioneering cancer treatment centre

Portugal’s only nuclear reactor – situated in Bobadela, Loures – has started being deactivated.

According to Público, the ‘nucleus of the reactor’ along with its spent uranium was transported “in secret” to the United States last March.

What is left will take roughly a decade to dismantle, but in its place will come a centre for the treatment of cancer with proton therapy, making use of scientists’ ‘accumulated knowledge in nuclear physics’.

Science and technology minister Manuel Heitor explains: “It’s the end of the era of nuclear energy and the start of an era in nuclear medicine and cancer treatment”.

The reactor, only ever established for scientific/ educational use, began functioning in 1961.

The country’s then dictator António Salazar intended it to be the beginning of a chain of reactors producing electricity.

But the plan never developed and Portugal’s direction then changed with emerging democracy.

Today, environmentalists have welcomed the news – stressing they only wish Spain would do the same with the ageing nuclear reactor at Almaraz, close to the border in Salamanca.

Meantime, a timeline for Portugal’s first centre for proton therapy hasn’t been given.

Proton therapy – offered already by certain countries – is the game-changer that uses beams of protons to irradiate diseased tissue.

Readers may remember the drama of the King family from UK who fled the country – against doctors wishes – to get their sick son treated with proton therapy in the Czech Republic.

At the time, the family was accused of reducing their son’s chances of survival.

Since then the child – who succeeded in receiving treatment – has made a full recovery and the NHS health service now fully supports sending children with similar illnesses for proton therapy.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com