In 1985, INVAP signed an agreement on the manufacture of a research nuclear reactor with a thermal power of 1 MW, in Algeria. This multipurpose plant was inaugurated in April, 1989 in Draria, Algiers, after a building stage of 18 months. It was named NUR that means brightness in Arabic. The design of the NUR reactor is similar to that of the RA-6 Argentine reactor built in Argentina, though its man-machine interface was upgraded.
The reactor can produce radioisotopes at laboratory scale and allows the irradiation of samples inside the core or the reflector tank. It has a hot cell to handle irradiated samples. The neutron extraction channels are also used in basic and applied research in the field of neutron physics.
Besides, the NUR reactor is a training school for reactors' operators; thus, it has an additional control console for training so they learn to use the reactor in real working conditions under the supervision of experts. The NUR reactor is also used as a school reactor for engineers and nuclear physicists, making a major contribution to the Algerian science. For instance, the study of the dynamics of two critical aquifers, located in that desert region in the north of Africa, was possible through traceable radioisotopes.
The NUR export was based on technology transfer between both countries. As part of the preliminary agreement between INVAP S.E. (Argentine state-owned applied research company) and the High Commission for Research of Algeria (today, replaced by the Development Center of Nuclear Techniques dependent on the Ministry for Scientific Research of this country), Argentina trained more than fifty Algerian technicians and nuclear engineers using the RA-6 facilities in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. Another contribution as regards the Algerian human resources training and qualification was the collaboration of its engineering companies in the civil engineering infrastructure, the assemblage, and other building aspects of the NUR reactor.
Reactor's general description
The NUR is an open pool research, light-water cooled and graphite-moderated reactor with a thermal power of 1 MW. Fuel elements with less than 20% enriched uranium for Materials Testing Reactors (MTR) are plate-type with aluminum cladding.
The design of the reactor core and its related control and safety systems are based on the following criteria::
- Natural convection cooling in case of loss of pumping power.
- Access to the reactor core from the top of the tank even when the reactor is operating at full power.
- Reactor reactivity balance controlled by safety and control plates.
- Mechanisms related to control and safety rods are located on the top of the reactor tank, which facilitates the staff training and the experiments performance.
- The core cooling system consists in coolant flowing down into the decay tank next to the pool.
The NUR was mainly designed to take neutron radiographies for research and industrial purposes, to produce radioisotopes at laboratory scale for medical and industrial uses, and to conduct basic and applied research in the field of reactor physics and nuclear engineering. Besides, it enables research in materials structure by neutron bombardment, materials test and irradiation, and scientific and technical staff training.
The reactor safety is complemented with a network of radiation detectors located in risk areas, and with a smoke detection and fire suppression system. The secondary pool allows spent fuel elements storage. The reactor includes some auxiliary services, such as demineralized water supply, compressed air, electrical systems, emergency generators, communication systems, workshops, physical security systems and laboratories.
Computerized supervision and control system
The NUR is equipped with a data acquisition system for supervision and control. Information gathering and processing are distributed; and, its visualization is centralized. The system allows to perform the following tasks, among others:
-To supervise and monitor every system involved in the reactor operation from the control room.
-To have an overall vision of the plant control with a detailed record of the actions taken.
-To keep short and long term records of digital and analog signals to analyze experiences, temporal evolution and dramatic variation of parameters.