The Argentine RA-6 reactor, inaugurated in 1982, was the first research reactor wholly developed by INVAP S.E. (Argentine state-owned applied research company). It is located in San Carlos de Bariloche, Province of Río Negro, on the premises of the Bariloche Atomic Center (CAB, in Spanish), dependent on the Argentine National Commission of Atomic Energy (CNEA, in Spanish).
The RA-6 is an open pool multipurpose light-water cooled reactor with a thermal power of 1 MW that operates with uranium enriched to 20 % U-235. It is used for research and training. It is quite simple and versatile in design. Its core has changeable setting.
As a training unit, the RA-6 was part of the training of hundreds of Argentine and foreign professionals during their careers as physicists, engineers and nuclear radiochemists and experts on materials. This open pool research reactor, whose core has changeable setting, is simple and versatile in design, which allows to operate as a multipurpose unit.
In 2002, one of its bunkers was prepared to carry out experiments on the oncology treatment, Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT).
The RA-6 is operated, maintained, re-equipped and repaired by its operating staff, which includes nuclear engineering and physics students of the Balseiro Institute. The reactor facility consists of two separate units, built in compliance with the seismic zones design regulations. One of the units has the reactor and the other the auxiliary systems, the laboratories, the classrooms and the offices.
The starting point of the RA-6 was a basic engineering provided by the Reactor Design Department of CNEA. Then, INVAP was in charge of building the reactor. It also designed and installed the main systems of the plant, such as its control electronic components (both nuclear and conventional systems), the bridge of instruments, the control bars mechanisms and the neutrons and gamma rays detection systems.
The RA-6 played a strategic role in boosting Argentina's nuclear exports. Foreign experts that are now nuclear authorities in other countries –and therefore potential partners or purchasers of Argentine technology– have been trained in its facilities. The facility, which was built meeting the established deadlines and sticking to the budget, was the first proof of INVAP's capability to design and carry out complex projects.