Hydrometallurgy Pilot Plant (HPP)

View All Egypt Facilities

Last Updated: October 1, 2009
Other Name: N/A
Location: Inshas (NE Cairo suburb)
Subordinate To: Atomic Energy Authority (AEA)
Size: Unknown
Facility Status: Partially operational

Egypt concluded several contracts with an unnamed foreign company in the late 1970s to build the HPP, and in 1982, laboratory 2 became operational. [1] The HPP is a hot cell complex, designed to conduct bench-scale radiochemistry experiments involving the separation of plutonium and uranium from irradiated fuel elements of the ETRR-1 research reactor. [2] Egypt neglected to declare this facility to the IAEA for safeguarding, but claims that the plant was never completed. [3] The IAEA investigation revealed that the HPP's one completed laboratory is being used for radiological protection research, and not for reprocessing. [4]

The HPP consists of three laboratories, the first of which contains three hot cell modules for nuclear waste reprocessing and vitrification (converting waste into a glass-like solid for long-term storage). The second and third laboratories consist of lead shielded and unshielded glove boxes for fission product separation and plutonium chemistry. Egypt states that it was unable to acquire the necessary equipment to complete the first and third laboratories, [5] meaning that Cairo is unable to reprocess and extract weapons-usable plutonium from its spent research reactor fuel. The completed second laboratory, however, gives Egypt back-end nuclear fuel cycle research capabilities.

Egyptian research at the HPP came to light in early 2001, when the IAEA discovered particles of actinides and fission products near the HPP. In November 2004, Egypt acknowledged that in 1987 it had conducted unirradiated uranyl nitrate acceptance tests at the HPP. [6] In January 2005, Egypt further disclosed that it obtained the uranyl nitrate from the dissolution of domestically produced scrap UO2 pellets (1.9 kg of uranium compounds). Uranyl nitrate (UNH) has several potential uses, including as a preliminary product in conversion to Uranium Hexafluoride (UF6) (which is feedstock for uranium enrichment). UNH is also a significant byproduct of nuclear fuel reprocessing, and if separated out it can be converted back into UF6. [7]

Egypt claims that it did not declare the HPP because the facility was constructed solely to carry out bench-scale radiochemistry experiments. In response to the IAEA's concerns, Egypt subsequently disclosed documentation, design, and contract information on the HPP to the IAEA. [8] The entire facility is now declared and under IAEA safeguards. [9]

Sources:
[1] Alex Blanc and Brad Roberts, "Nuclear Proliferation: A Historic Overview," Institute for Defense Analysis, March 2008, www.dtic.mil; Yana Feldman, Mary Beth Nikitin, and Jack Boureston, "Egyptian nuclear non-disclosures cause concern," Jane's Intelligence Review, 1 April 2005, www.janes.com.
[2] Yana Feldman, Mary Beth Nikitin, and Jack Boureston, "Egyptian nuclear non-disclosures cause concern," Jane's Intelligence Review, 1 April 2005, www.janes.com.
[3] Nuclear Programmes in the Middle East: In the Shadow of Iran, ed. Mark Fitzpatrick, (London: The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2008), p. 24.
[4] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Arab Republic of Egypt: Report by the Director General," IAEA, 14 February 2005, p. 5, www.carnegieendowment.org.
[5] See the IAEA report for detailed specifications on the functions of the laboratories. IAEA, "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Arab Republic of Egypt: Report by the Director General," 14 February 2005, www.carnegieendowment.org, p. 4.
[6] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Arab Republic of Egypt: Report by the Director General," IAEA, 14 February 2005, www.carnegieendowment.org, p. 4.
[7] Mary Byrd Davis, "Refinement and Conversion of Uranium Concentrates," Nuclear France: Materials and Sites, www.francenuc.org; "RepU's Second Chance?" RWE Nukem Market Report Online, June 2006, www.nukem.de; European Nuclear Society, "Info pool/glossary: Uranyl nitrate," www.euronuclear.org; David Albright, "Iraq's Programs to Make Highly Enriched Uranium and Plutonium for Nuclear Weapons Prior to the Gulf War," Institute for Science and International Security, October 2002, pp. 30-31. www.isis-online.org.
[8] "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Arab Republic of Egypt: Report by the Director General," IAEA, 14 February 2005, www.carnegieendowment.org, pp. 4-5.
[9] Alex Blanc and Brad Roberts, "Nuclear Proliferation: A Historic Overview," Institute for Defense Analysis, March 2008, www.dtic.mil.

Country Profile
Flag of Egypt
Egypt

This article provides an overview of Egypt’s historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

Learn More →

This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents. Copyright 2017.