China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) Joins Universities and Research Institutes to Conduct the Experiment on COVID-19 Virus Inactivation by Irradiation Technology

Updated: 2021-03-13

With the progressing of the global COVID-19 virus pandemic, it is a top priority to prevent the spreading of COVID-19 virus through cold-chain logistic channel. In December 2020, with the strong support of the China Atomic Energy Agency (CAEA), three subsidiaries of CNNC, China Radiation Protection Research Institute, China Isotope & Radiation Corporation (CIRC), NUCTECH work jointly with the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and other research institutes to conduct the research project " The Research on Prevention and Control of COVID-19 virus for Import Cold Chain Food by Irradiation Sterilization Technology".

Recently, CIRC and the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have confirmed the COVID-19 virus inactivation experiment plan, in which CIRC is responsible for the design and provision of the special irradiation equipment, the Institute of Microbiology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences is responsible for the detection and evaluation of the virus before and after irradiation, the experimental plan has been approved and implemented. Following the fact that CNNC taking the advantage of nuclear technology for the sterilization of medical protective clothing in 2020, this will be the other concrete embodiment and responsibility of CNNC to take the advantages of nuclear technology for the benefit of mankind and promoting the international and domestic double-cycle pattern.

The major research purpose of the project is to carry out the research on the irradiation and disinfection of the COVID-19 virus, establish the new irradiation technical process, and provide the basis for the COVID-19 virus irradiation sterilization in imported cold-chain food. The relevant research results are of great significance for the disinfection treatment of the COVID-19 virus in imported cold-chain food and the prevention and control of the COVID-19 virus during the important international sports events.

Under the guidance of CAEA, CNNC will jointly develop irradiation sterilization technical processes for accelerator and gamma irradiator in accordance with the experiment irradiation dose of the COVID-19 virus, and promote the establishment of group standards or industry standards. Also, CNNC will continue to carry out the research to promote the industrial demonstration application, and provide a feasible and harmless technical means for sterilization of COVID-19 virus in cold-chain food.

CNNC has already completed 2 kinds of simulated coronavirus inactivation process research experiments in the last 3 months, and obtained a large number of experimental data. Simulation experiments show that a lower radiation absorption dose can achieve inactivation for simulated coronavirus and have no effect on food safety.

At present, the research team initially determined the range of the COVID-19 virus inactivated irradiation dose, but using COVID-19 virus to complete the inactivated dose verification work is still a huge challenge, there is no similar international literature and research work for reference. The research team conducted extensive studies and discussions, repeatedly optimized the experimental plan, and solved many problems to ensure the project successfully advanced.

It is reported that the field of medical and health care is one of the most important applications of irradiation technology, especially the sterilization of medical products. At present, more than 40% of medical products in Europe and the United States are sterilized by irradiation technology, while only about 10% in China.

Since the last century, irradiation technology has widely used for disinfection and sterilization on food. Now, chemical disinfection technology is mainly used in the prevention and control of COVID-19 virus for import cold-chain food, but this method may cause chemical reagent residues in food. While the irradiation technology has many advantages, such as no chemical residue, strong radiation penetration, uniform and thorough disinfection, is special suitable for the disinfection of a large number of cold chain food from surface to internal.

In the fight against the pandemic in 2020, the “hidden skill” of the nuclear industry-taking the advantage of irradiation sterilization technology to solve the problem of sterilization for medical disposable protective clothing, has given the public   understanding of the nuclear technology application. Since the outbreak of pandemic, the demand for medical protective clothing is strong, the supply is badly restricted by the traditional ethylene oxide disinfection method, the disinfection time needs 7 to 14 days. CAEA and CNNC have actively promoted the application of irradiation technology to solve the problem, and participated in the drafting of the Emergency Specification for Irradiation of Medical Disposable Protective Clothing (Temporary) issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the National Medical Products Administration and the National Health  Commission. During this period, CIRC has completed the sterilization of 2.51 million sets of medical disposable protective clothing, 2.49 million medical disposable masks, 4.55 million pairs of medical disposable latex gloves by irradiation technology.

CNNC is the largest in China and the third largest in the world cobalt-60 sources supplier, and has the largest nuclear technology enterprises in China engaged in research and development, manufacture, sales, and services. The nuclear technology application products and technical solutions have gone to the international market. In recent years, CNNC has taken many initiatives to strengthen the top-level design and business coordination of the nuclear technology application industry, and promote the implementation of the industrialization project of nuclear technology application, so as to form a wealth of products and services.