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Soreq Nuclear Research Center

  • Location
    Yavne
  • Type
    Nuclear-Research and Development
  • Facility Status
    Operational

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About

According to the website of the Soreq Nuclear Research Center (SNRC), the research center serves numerous purposes. Research at Soreq focuses on introduction and incorporation of radiation-based techniques for practical use, such as developing equipment for nuclear medicine and radio-pharmaceutics and testing and developing methods to detect contraband and security-threat materials. 1

Soreq has several divisions: ElectroOptics, Non-Destructive Testing, a National Radiation Safety Center, the Israel Research Reactor-1 (IRR-1), the Space Environment Group, and Radiopharmaceuticals

The facility has a 10 MeV proton cyclotron accelerator in addition to its research reactor. Soreq is in the process of constructing a new research facility called the Soreq Applied Research Accelerator Facility (SARAF), which will house a proton deuteron RF superconducting linear accelerator. This project is expected to be completed by 2013. 2

According to a declassified Pentagon study, “nuclear weapons design and fabrication“ reportedly takes place at the Soreq Nuclear Research Center. 3

Research Reactor

The Israeli Research Reactor-1 (IRR-1) is a 5MW U.S. supplied pool-type light water reactor. 4 According to the Soreq website, the reactor’s uses include “research and training in nuclear engineering, neutron radiography and diffraction, activation analysis and changing colors of semi-precious and precious stones.” 5 The facility is under IAEA safeguards. 6

The U.S. government donated the IRR-1 to Israel under President Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace Program. 7 On 12 July 1955, the United States and Israel signed a general agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation, which included the provision of a small research reactor. 8 Construction on the IRR-1 began in January 1958 and the reactor reached criticality in June 1960. The reactor is light water cooled and moderated with a light water reflector. It is operated six hours per day, two days per week and forty weeks per year by a small staff of 16 (including six operators). 9 The IRR-1 is fueled by 93% HEU, originally provided by the United States. 10 Due to its small size, the reactor cannot produce significant quantities of plutonium. 11

Proton Cyclotron Accelerator

Open source details regarding the SNRC’s proton accelerator are limited, but the proliferation implications of this facility are low. According to R. Scott Kemp in his article “Nuclear Proliferation with Particle Accelerators,” conventional cyclotrons with energy below 25 MeV do not have the ability to penetrate uranium nuclei and are not capable of low-yield spallation, which produces the neutron beams necessary for a nuclear chain reaction. 12

Applied Research Accelerator Facility (SARAF)

Soreq purchased its proton/deuteron RF superconducting linear accelerator from Accel Instruments GmbH of Germany. Soreq will construct the facility in two phases and expects that it will be completed by 2013. Phase II of the construction will begin after completing experiments in accelerating protons and deuterons up to approximately 5 MeV at beam currents of 0.04 – 2 mA. Phase II involves the design and construction of additional components of the accelerator, and will accelerate protons and deuterons up to 40 MeV. The SARAF website has more technical information on the construction phases of the accelerator. 13 Soreq envisions the following applications for the accelerator: “basic research in nuclear sciences, medical and biological research, neutron-based non-destructive testing, and development and production of radiopharmaceuticals.” 14

Glossary

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.
Proton
A particle with a positive electric charge located in the nucleus of an atom.
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.
Light-water reactor
Light-water reactor: A term used to describe reactors using ordinary water, where the hydrogen is hydrogen-1, as a coolant and moderator, including boiling water reactors (BWRs) and pressurized water reactors (PWRs), the most common types used in the United States.
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
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.
Atoms for Peace
A U.S. program announced by President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the United Nations on 8 December 1953 to share nuclear materials and technology for peaceful purposes with other countries. This program required countries receiving nuclear materials to agree to inspections of the transferred technology to ensure it was not used for military purposes. The program was formally established in 1954, following the passage of the Atomic Energy Act, and ended abruptly in 1974 following India’s first nuclear test.
Critical
Critical: A state where the number of neutrons in each period of time, or generation, remains constant. When a nuclear reactor is “steady-state,” or operating at normal power levels for extended periods of time, it is in this state.
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.
Plutonium (Pu)
Plutonium (Pu): A transuranic element with atomic number 94, produced when uranium is irradiated in a reactor. It is used primarily in nuclear weapons and, along with uranium, in mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. Plutonium-239, a fissile isotope, is the most suitable isotope for use in nuclear weapons.
Uranium
Uranium is a metal with the atomic number 92. See entries for enriched uranium, low enriched uranium, and highly enriched uranium.

Sources

  1. “About Soreq,” Soreq Nuclear Research Centre, www.soreq.gov.il.
  2. “Soreq Applied Research Accelerator Facility (SARAF),” Soreq Nuclear Research Centre, www.soreq.gov.il.
  3. Hans M. Kristensen and Joshua Handler, “Appendix 10A: World Nuclear Forces,” in SIPRI Yearbook 2002: Armaments, Disarmament, and International Security, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 565.
  4. “Nuclear Research Reactors in the World,” International Atomic Energy Agency, www.iaea.org.
  5. “Home Page,” Soreq Nuclear Research Centre, www.soreq.gov.il.
  6. “Home Page,” Soreq Nuclear Research Centre, www.soreq.gov.il.
  7. “Home Page,” Soreq Nuclear Research Centre, www.soreq.gov.il.
  8. Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998), p. 44.
  9. “Nuclear Research Reactors in the World,” International Atomic Energy Agency, www.iaea.org.
  10. “Research Reactors,” World Nuclear Association, October 2010, www.world-nuclear.org; “Research Reactor Details - IRR-1,” IAEA, Accessed 6 January 2011, www-naweb.iaea.org, State of Research Reactor Details - IRR-1.htm.
  11. “Israel’s Nuclear Weapon Capability: An Overview,” The Risk Report, 2 no. 6 (July-August 1996), www.wisconsinproject.org.
  12. R. Scott Kemp, “Nuclear Proliferation with Particle Accelerators,” Science and Global Securitym, no.13 (2005), www.princeton.edu.
  13. “Accelerator Construction Phases,” Soreq Nuclear Research Centre, www.soreq.gov.il.
  14. “Soreq Applied Research Accelerator Facility (SARAF),” Soreq Nuclear Research Centre, www.soreq.gov.il.

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