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Der Al-Hadjar Nuclear Research Center

  • Location
    140km north of Damascus
  • Type
    Nuclear-Research Reactors
  • Facility Status

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Constructed in the early 1990s, the Der Al-Hadjar Nuclear Research Center houses Syria’s only research reactor, the Chinese-supplied SRR-1 Miniature Neutron Source Reactor. 1 2 3 The bulk of Syria’s nuclear-related work takes place at the Center. 4 Research includes nuclear physics and chemistry; use of radiation and radioisotopes in medicine, agriculture, biology, and geology; exploration of radioactive ores; management and procedures for the use of radioactive resources; protection from radiation; and the effects of radiation on humans and the environment. 5 The facility is subject to IAEA inspections under Syria’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA. 6 In 2008 and 2009, environmental samples taken by the IAEA revealed particles of processed natural uranium that were not in Syria’s declared inventory. 7 Syrian officials later acknowledged performing experiments irradiating uranyl nitrate at the SRR-1. After inspecting the source of the uranium particles at the phosphoric acid pilot plant in Homs and revisiting the SRR-1, the IAEA found that Syria’s declarations were consistent and reverted to the “routine implementation of safeguards” at Der Al-Hadjar. 8 In 2015, Syria requested assistance from the IAEA to convert the SRR-1 to run on low-enriched uranium (LEU) instead of highly enriched uranium. Due to the security situation in Syria, the IAEA suspended physical inspections of the site in 2013 but continued to monitor the site through satellite imagery. 9


Research reactor
Research reactor: Small fission reactors designed to produce neutrons for a variety of purposes, including scientific research, training, and medical isotope production. Unlike commercial power reactors, they are not designed to generate power.
Radiation (Ionizing)
Radiation that has sufficient energy to remove electrons from substances that it passes through, forming ions. May include alpha particles, beta particles, gamma rays, x-rays, neutrons, high-speed electrons, high-speed protons, and other particles capable of producing ions.
Radioisotope: An unstable isotope of an element that decays or disintegrates spontaneously, emitting energy (radiation). Approximately 5,000 natural and artificial radioisotopes have been identified. Some radioisotopes, such as Molybdenum-99, are used for medical applications, such as diagnostics. These isotopes are created by the irradiation of targets in research reactors.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
IAEA: Founded in 1957 and based in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA is an autonomous international organization in the United Nations system. The Agency’s mandate is the promotion of peaceful uses of nuclear energy, technical assistance in this area, and verification that nuclear materials and technology stay in peaceful use. Article III of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT to accept safeguards administered by the IAEA. The IAEA consists of three principal organs: the General Conference (of member states); the Board of Governors; and the Secretariat. For additional information, see the IAEA.
Safeguards: A system of accounting, containment, surveillance, and inspections aimed at verifying that states are in compliance with their treaty obligations concerning the supply, manufacture, and use of civil nuclear materials. The term frequently refers to the safeguards systems maintained by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in all nuclear facilities in non-nuclear weapon state parties to the NPT. IAEA safeguards aim to detect the diversion of a significant quantity of nuclear material in a timely manner. However, the term can also refer to, for example, a bilateral agreement between a supplier state and an importer state on the use of a certain nuclear technology.

See entries for Full-scope safeguards, information-driven safeguards, Information Circular 66, and Information Circular 153.
Uranium is a metal with the atomic number 92. See entries for enriched uranium, low enriched uranium, and highly enriched uranium.
Low enriched uranium (LEU)
Low enriched uranium (LEU): Refers to uranium with a concentration of the isotope U-235 that is higher than that found in natural uranium but lower than 20% LEU (usually 3 to 5%). LEU is used as fuel for many nuclear reactor designs.
Highly enriched uranium (HEU)
Highly enriched uranium (HEU): Refers to uranium with a concentration of more than 20% of the isotope U-235. Achieved via the process of enrichment. See entry for enriched uranium.


  1. “Syria: Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, CIA, 1 January through 30 June 2002,” April 2003, www.cia.gov.
  2. Anthony H. Cordesman, “Syrian weapons of mass destruction,” Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2 June 2008, p. 16, www.csis.org.
  3. A. George, “Syria Takes Delivery of Its Chinese Reactor,” Nuclear Engineering International12/93, 1 December 1993, pp. 46-47.
  4. M.E. Eads, International Research Centers Directory, 11 ed., 1999, p. 326.
  5. Robin Hughes, “Country Briefing: Syria - Syria’s Dilemma,” Jane’s Defense Weekly, 7 September 2005, www.janes.com.
  6. Nuclear Programmes in the Middle East: In the shadow of Iran, ed. Mark Fitzpatrick (London: The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2008), p. 78.
  7. IAEA, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Report by the Director General to the Board of Governors, GOV/2009/56, 28 August 2009, www.iaea.org.
  8. IAEA, “Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement in the Syrian Arab Republic,” Report by the Director General to the Board of Governors, GOV/2011/30, 24 May 2011, www.iaea.org.
  9. Kelsey Davenport, “IAEA Studies Syrian Reactor Conversion,” Arms Control Association, July/August 2015, www.armscontrol.org.


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