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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Nur Reactor / Draria

The one megawatt "Nur" reactor is located at Draria on the coast east of Algiers, and has hot cells for the production of radioactive isotopes. The Nuclear Engineering Research Unit, affiliated with the Energy Management Systems Development Center [CDSE], was created on December 31, 1988. Investigaciones Aplicadas (Invap), the Argentine company, supplied Algeria with this small (one megawatt thermal) reactor fuelled with low enriched uranium in the late 1980s.

In 1985 INVAP signed a contract for the construction of a 1 MW thermal power Multipurpose Reactor in Algiers. This reactor, which was inaugurated in April 1989, took only 18 months to assemble was given the name NUR ("luminosity" in Arabic). The reactor in Algiers is similar in general design to the Argentine RA-6 reactor, but features significant upgrading of the human-machine interface.

Algeria was not a signatory to the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty at the time, nor was the reactor subject to any other safeguards agreement. The reactor itself is of little direct significance to weapons proliferation, in partly dues to its limited capacity, and because the reactor was subject to a site-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA. It was a stepping stone, because the project involved transfer of technology, with over 50 Algerian professionals and technicians, and a number of Algerian firms, involved in the project. This reactor went critical in 1989.

This reactor is used for laboratory scale production of radioisotopes, for basic and applied research in neutron physics, and for training reactor-operating personnel. It features a hot-cell and circuit to handle irradiated samples by pneumatic transport, several neutron beam extraction channels, and a supplementary control console - 'slave' to the main console - by means of which the reactor can be operated by personnel in training.

The NUR Reactor is a pool-type reactor with an open water surface and variable core arrangement. Its operation is safe and reliable. Its power output is 1 MWth, cooled by light water and moderated by graphite. It has plate-type fuel elements (MTR type, approx. 20% enriched uranium) with aluminum cladding. Irradiation boxes are used for radioisotope production. Boxes are either inserted in the core or positioned within the external reflector. Manipulation and distribution of irradiated items is carried out within the hot cell located at the reactor.

In order to facilitate research activities, the reactor has been provided with neutron beam channels and a Neutron Radiography Facility. There is an auxiliary pool for spent-fuel storage. Reactor safety is complemented with a network of radiation detectors located in contamination-risk areas, plus a fire-detection and manual and automatic fire-extinguishing systems.

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