Russia is all set to help India to develop the technology for disinfecting food commodities and sterilising medical products.
Speaking to the FE, executives from Rusatom Overseas, said , “the company under Rusatom Overseas management, and the Indian company Gamma Tech (where Russians have picked 51% shares) inked an agreement to this effect in July and decided to create a network of centres for radiation sterilisation in India.”
These centres will perform disinfection of food commodities and sterilisation of medical products with ionising radiation. Two first pilot radiation centres are planned to be opened in Tamil Nadu.
According to the company officials, “Technologies being developed in Russia allow decontamination of such food products as fruit, vegetables and berries, as well as fish and meat. This procedure also increases the storage life of food products, prevents the sprouting of vegetables and removes insect pests.”
Radiation sterilisation is aimed at maximum reduction of pathogenic bacteria and viruses. If this procedure is performed correctly, it is a safe and reliable industrial process.
In recent years, a major contribution in securing overall food production and thereby reducing food price volatility has been made by nuclear technologies, particularly sterilisation technologies most actively used in Europe and the US.
Radiation is conducted by special-purpose process plants using electron accelerators or gamma rays emitted by isotopes of Cobalt-60 or Cesium-137. When electrons pass through the substance, most of their energy is used for ionisation which results in the destruction of microorganisms.
The radiation disinfection procedure has a number of advantages. Firstly, it ensures high inactivation of micro-organisms. Secondly, it allows sterilising large batches of materials. Thirdly, application of this technology affords an opportunity to sterilise products in any tight packing (excluding radiopaques).
The whole process is automated and the cost of sterilisation with ionising radiation is 4-5 times lower than the cost of sterilisation with the use of thermal or gas methods.
The radiation disinfection technologies are approved by the WHO, the IAEA and the FAO. Moreover, the IAEA and the FAO are implementing a joint programme aimed at the use of nuclear technologies in the agricultural and food sectors. Within the framework of this programme, the organisations are promoting the expansion of radiation sterilisation technologies all over the world in accordance with international standards established in the Codex Alimentarius (globally recognised food code).
It should be noted that one more potential trend in the development of nuclear technologies in the agricultural sector is the radiation of seeds to increase yielding capacity.
During the last 5 years, Russian scientists have been carrying out experiments connected with the use of radiation in this field. If this project is successful, it will be possible to solve 5-20% of hunger problems in the world due to the increase in yielding capacity and the safekeeping of agricultural products.