The Algerian Nuclear Problem, 1991: Controversy over the Es Salam Nuclear Reactor

1991 Controversy over Algerian Nuclear Reactor Led Washington to Seek Chinese Assistance in Pressing Algiers to Adhere to Nuclear Nonproliferation Goal

National Security Archive
Electronic Briefing Book No. 228

Edited by William Burr

Posted - September 10, 2007

Washington DC, September 10, 2007 - In the spring of 1991, leaks to the Washington Times on intelligence community discussions of the nuclear activities of the Algerian government and a Chinese reactor sale to that country stimulated a flap within the George H. W. Bush administration over the possibility that Algiers had started a nuclear weapons program. NSC and State Department documents published for the first time today by the National Security Archive shed light on the internal U.S. debate over Algeria's capabilities and intentions, on U.S. queries to China for details and assurances about the reactor sale, and Washington's pressure to ensure that Algiers adhered to nonproliferation norms. Washington in 1991 wanted Chinese help to assure Algerian compliance with nonproliferation goals. Whatever Algeria's real intentions were--and the U.S. intelligence community was divided about this--Washington, Beijing, and the international community brought Algiers into the NPT-system within a few years of the controversy.

The Algerian situation is an example of the complexities and difficulties of nuclear weapons intelligence. Questions about the capabilities and intentions of potential members of the nuclear club, whose activities are invariably surrounded by tight secrecy, have characteristically shaped the policy debate on nuclear proliferation. Declassified U.S. government documents on pending controversies, e.g., over Iran and North Korea, are practically impossible to obtain, even on the earliest stages of the controversy. Thus, recently declassified documents from 1991 on the then-secret debate over Algeria's nuclear ambitions provide a rare glimpse of an early post-Cold War test of the nuclear nonproliferation regime. (Note 1)

The Algerian nuclear question became a public issue on April 11, 1991, when the Washington Times published a story by Bill Gertz headlined: "China Helps Algeria Develop Nuclear Weapons." Reflecting his military intelligence sources, Gertz wrote that Beijing was helping the Algerian government build a nuclear reactor near the village of Ain Oussera that could be used to build weapons. (Note 2) According to one of Gertz's anonymous sources, "This is clearly a military nuclear reactor for weapons production." No power-lines or power-generating facilities at the reactor were evident and an anti-aircraft missile battery was spotted near the site. Gertz's sources also told him that Beijing was supplying the Algerians with "military advice on how to match nuclear weapons to various aerial and missile delivery systems."

Only months before the Gertz story appeared, U.S. photographic satellites had picked up images of the construction, in an isolated part of the country, of the Ain Oussera nuclear site. While military intelligence interpreted the reactor and the site in the way that Gertz described, he did not mention that State Department analysts who, while concerned, were not convinced that it was a military project. (Note 3)

The press leaks made the Algerian nuclear question a public one. The controversy spread to Congress and intensified pressure on the George H.W. Bush administration and the International Atomic Energy Authority to ensure that Algeria was developing on lines that were compatible with nonproliferation norms. Gertz's story may have forced the Bush administration's hand by inducing it to confront the Algerian problem more quickly than it may have originally intended. That the story involved China, whose nuclear relationship with Pakistan already troubled the Bush Administration, made the issue an even more complex and delicate one.

Whatever the reactor's exact purpose was, no doubt suspicions increased when, on 10 April 1991, the Algerian government expelled the British military attaché, William Cross, who had been found taking pictures near the site. (Note 4) Even though Algeria was undergoing an uncertain and difficult transition from a system controlled exclusively by the National Liberation Front to a more pluralist, multi-party system, a "culture of secrecy" was a powerful legacy of one-party rule and the underground anti-colonial resistance. (Note 5) While U.S. (and British) intelligence sought to penetrate the secrecy, Washington understood the delicacy of Algeria's internal situation, especially the threat posed by the Islamic Salvation Front to any possibility for the development, much less preservation, of political democracy. This made it important to avoid a heavy-handed approach to Algeria that could lead to protests against Western intervention, especially after the recent war with Iraq.

After the revelations in the media about the Es Salem reactor, the Bush administration issued secret demarchés to both Algiers and Beijing. An approach to China was difficult because of an already difficult relationship with Beijing over human rights and trade issues during the tense post-Tiananmen period. Nevertheless, the Bush administration wanted help from China to ensure that the Algerians applied appropriate safeguards to ensure that it would be used for civilian energy purposes only. The issue was settled in ways that the Bush administration found more or less satisfactory, with both Algeria and China agreeing that the reactor should be subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Inspections began the next year. With Beijing positioning itself to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, it had reason to demonstrate its commitment to the nonproliferation agenda.

Much remains secret about the controversy over the Algerian nuclear project, for example, over the extent of internal debate over how tough to be with Beijing over the deal with Algeria. Nevertheless, State Department has released important documents, a number of them after FOIA appeals, from the files of Ambassador-at-Large for Nonproliferation and Nuclear Energy Policy Richard T. Kennedy, who played a key role in the Reagan and Bush administrations. While significant information was denied, probably to protect intelligence sources and sensitive diplomatic communications, the documents provide insight into the controversy:

  • An NSC report on the "Algerian Nuclear Program" suggests why some U.S. officials were worried; the "cooling towers of the reactor appear adequate to support operation of a substantially large reactor, possibly up to 50 MWT," much larger than would be needed for nuclear research. Also of concern was "heavy-walled facility ? that appears suited to provide options for a future reprocessing capability, waste storage, or research applications."

  • An updated version of the same report observed that "We do not have sufficient information from which to conclude that the [Algerian Government] has decided to pursue a military nuclear program"; nevertheless, the State Department wanted the IAEA to inspect the Algerian facilities to answer questions about the reactor's power level and the size of the cooling tower.

  • Illuminating the State Department's skeptical stance about the hard-line interpretations of Algerian nuclear intentions, one routing memo reads "This should help put to rest the great Algerian nuclear weapons scare."

  • In response to still-classified demarches, by late April Algeria and China had issued statements about the reactor project that, according to a State Department memorandum, "alleviated our concerns about the proliferation implications". Nevertheless, Washington should "continue to press [Algeria| to act promptly by notifying the IAEA of its intention to submit the reactor to safeguards."

  • At the end of May 1991, the Chinese government handed the State Department a confidential note describing the February 1983 agreement with Algeria and stating that it was supplying the Algerians with 11 metric tons of heavy water and 216 fuel modules.

  • Continued concern about Algeria's intentions led the State Department to apply pressure on Switzerland to refuse to sell to Algiers a hot isostatic press, which had nuclear weapons and missile applications.

  • Newly declassified documents illuminate a late stage of the controversy, when The New York Times ran a story in November 1991 asserting that Ambassador Kennedy had suppressed information on the Algeria-China nuclear connection that had come to light several years before U.S. intelligence discovered the reactor. As it turned out, Ambassador Kennedy had turned over documents to INR, which then "misplaced" them for over two years.

In light of U.S. expectations in 1991 that the IAEA would be inspecting Algeria's nuclear facilities, the nuclear issue probably faded in importance for Washington, compared to more fundamental fears over Algeria's future. In early 1992, after national elections in which the Islamic Salvation Front scored impressive victories, the military established a "state of emergency." Soon a brutal and bloody civil war broke out between Islamic fundamentalists and the Algerian police and military. Civil war notwithstanding, in 1993 Algeria pledged to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (which it did in 1995), but the safeguards which the IAEA negotiated did not put an end to speculation about Algeria's nuclear interests. The safeguards were limited, e.g., the Agency can not inspect all of the facilities and apparently has received little information from Algiers on the project's origins. According to a 1997 report by David Albright and Corey Hinderstein, Algeria has cooperated with the IAEA within the limits of its current safeguards agreements, but it "has not been open enough to allay widespread suspicions about its activities." (Note 6) Algeria, like other African and Middle Eastern countries, continues to pursue nuclear options for electric power and desalination; some observers worry that they are seeking a "nuclear hedge" in the event that Iran develops weapons. No doubt, U.S. intelligence and others continue to monitor the Algerian situation. (Note 7) Whether the intelligence community ever solved the puzzle of the cooling tower, however, may be learned from future declassifications.

[Source note: All documents included in this Electronic Briefing Book were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from the U.S. Department of State]

Document 1: U.S. embassy Algeria cable 01357 to State Department, "Nuclear Cooperation between Argentina and Algeria," 2 April 1991, Secret, Excised Copy

The Argentines provided Algeria's first nuclear research reactor but it produced no controversy because the agreement applied IAEA safeguards. During this reported conversation between U.S. Ambassador Christopher Ross and a person who may have been an Argentine government official, the latter mentioned "`rumors' about the possible 'hush-hush' construction with Chinese aid, of a second ? nuclear reactor designed to produce isotopes." A confidential embassy source noted that the "Moroccans were quite concerned about the Algerian nuclear program, but implied there was little real basis for worry."

Document 2: U.S. embassy Algeria cable 01502 to State Department, "Algerian Nuclear Program," 12 April 1991, Secret, Nodis, Excised Copy

The Washington Times story quickly reached Ambassador Ross, who may have discussed it with the Algerians or had his own observations. The cable's "nodis" [no distribution without permission] status, which has been massively excised, suggests its high sensitivity.

Document 3: State Department cable 119578 to U.S. Embassy Beijing et al., "Press Guidance: China-Algeria Nuclear Cooperation," 12 April 1991, Unclassified

When a BBC reporter asked the State Department spokesman about the Washington Times story, State Department spokesperson Richard Boucher took exception to the story's thrust: "We have no reason to conclude that China has agreed to provide assistance to Algeria for nuclear weapons development." In any event, the Department would "continue to review China's nonproliferation practices to determine whether they are consistent with its pronouncements" that it "does not engage in nuclear proliferation."

Document 4: U.S. embassy Algeria cable 01547 to State Department, "MFA Confirms Chinese-Algerian Nuclear Cooperation," 14 April 1991, Unclassified

On 14 April Algeria's foreign minister confirmed its program of nuclear cooperation with China "stressing that it is for peaceful uses."

Documents 5a and 5b: Review by Policy Coordinating Committee

Document 5a: William F. Sittman, Executive Secretary, National Security Council, to J. Stapleton Roy et al., "Algerian Nuclear Program," 25 April 1991, Secret

Document 5b: J. Stapleton Roy to William F. Sittman, The White House, "Algerian Nuclear Program," n.d., Secret, Excised Copy

The Washington Times story was followed by more, in the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, as well as an industry trade journal, Nucleonics Week (whose European correspondent, Mark Hibbs, gave full coverage of the interagency debate). (Note 8) It was not until 25 April, however, that the National Security Council asked its Policy Coordinating Committee (PCC) on Non-Proliferation to review the Algerian question and make recommendations on a "course of action" to the Deputies Committee. In particular, the PCC was to look at "any aspect of that program ? that would not be satisfactorily addressed by IAEA safeguards."

A few days later, the PCC replied with its report and recommendations. Providing some basic history of Algerian-Chinese nuclear cooperation, the paper noted the problem of the cooling tower's large size: The Algerian and Chinese description of the project as a 15 MW reactor notwithstanding, "the cooling towers ? appear adequate to support operations of a substantially large reactor possibly up to 50 MWT." (Note 9) While some Algerian political parties supported the acquisition of nuclear weapons, even if the government had that goal in mind, a development program would need "significant foreign assistance." The defensive missile batteries that had excited intelligence analysts and the Washington Times had been removed in March.

To ensure that the Algerians stayed away from a military path, the U.S. would continue to encourage Algeria to consult with the IAEA, as well as to sign the NPT. Washington was working with a number of allies--France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Portugal--to "exert influence on Algeria" along the same lines. To the extent that other measures "other than, or in addition, to safeguards," became necessary the Department of Defense had developed a proposal for the event that the "Algerian reactor turns out to be larger than 15 mwt." The proposal is excised, but it may have involved suggestions for coercive measures, from economic embargo to military action.

Documents 6a and 6b: Beijing Responds

Document 6a: U.S. Embassy Beijing cable 12377 to Department of State, "MFA Statement on PRC Nuclear Cooperation with Algeria," 30 April 1991, Unclassified

Document 6b: Memo to Richard T. Kennedy from Gary Samore, 30 April 1991

On 30 April 1991, Beijing responded publicly to U.S. pressure by declaring that the designed power of the rector was 10 megawatts and that it was "totally groundless to allege ? that the reactor can be used to make nuclear weapons." Moreover, when Algiers and Beijing signed the contract for the reactor in 1983, China was not a member of the IAEA "so that there was no such a question as submitting to international safeguards." That same day, Gary Samore passed on to Ambassador Kennedy information that "should help put to rest the great Algerian nuclear weapons scare." What that information was is not clear (but it may have been the PRC announcement).

Document 7: Memorandum from John H. Kelly, Richard T. Kennedy, and E.U. Curtis Bohlen to Under Secretary of State for International Security Affairs Reginald Bartholomew, "Algerian and Chinese Statements Help Ease Proliferation Concerns," 2 May 1991, Secret/Noforn, Excised Copy

On 29 April, a few days before the Chinese statement, the Algerians made their own public declaration about the reactor's size and its peaceful purposes. State Department officials had a cautiously optimistic take on the statements from Algiers and Beijing: "if the ?statements about safeguards and the reactor's size are true, the reactor will not likely pose a proliferation threat. Nevertheless, we will continue to press the Algerian government ?to submit the reactor to [IAEA] safeguards." (Note 10)

Documents 8a and 8b: Assurances to the French

Document 8a: U.S. Embassy France cable 11903 to State Department, "Dumas Claims Assurances on Algerian Reactor," 2 May 1991, Confidential

Document 8b:"French Foreign Minister's Remarks on Chinese/Algerian Nuclear Cooperation," 2 May 1991, Unclassified

Visiting Beijing Foreign Minister Roland Dumas emerged from discussions with Chinese officials with a statement on the Algerian nuclear question: "There is no question of Algeria's acquiring a nuclear weapon." Nevertheless, in view of its former colonial relationship with Algeria, France would be watching the situation closely. The U.S. embassy noted with some surprise that the French media was not playing up the Algerian nuclear story, but perhaps it was because British media had picked it up first.

Document 9: State Department cable 133496 to U.S. Consulate Hong Kong, "Sino-Algerian Cooperation: New Developments," 2 May 1991, Secret, Nodis, Excised Copy

To update Undersecretary for Political Affairs Robert Kimmitt, before he arrived in Beijing for meetings with senior officials, the Department provided information on the latest Algerian developments, as well as the text of a paper on "China and Nuclear Nonproliferation."

Document 10: Richard Clarke's Briefing - U.S. Embassy Egypt cable 1187 to State Department, "Briefing on Sino/Algerian Nuclear Cooperation," 5 May 1991, Secret, Nodis, Excised Copy

Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs Richard Clarke was in Cairo for discussions on arms control when Foreign Ministry officials asked him about the press reports on Algeria. Clarke gave a briefing that drew on a still-classified State Department cable.

Document 11: U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna cable 00964 to State Department, "Algeria Reactor and IAEA Safeguards," 10 May 1967, Secret, Excised Copy

The U.S. mission to the IAEA, had learned of the Agency's recent contacts with Algeria and China, but the details are classified.

Document 12: U.S. embassy China cable 13790 to State Department, "U/S Kimmitt's Meeting with Liu Huaqiu: Bilateral Issues," 13 May 1991, Secret, Nodis, Excised copy

During Kimmit's meetings with Vice Foreign Minister Liu, the two agreed that U.S.-China relations were at a "critical point" in view of ongoing controversies over nonproliferation, trade, human rights, and renewal of Most-Favored Nation [MFN] status. While Liu objected to any linkage of MFN renewal with controversial problems, Kimmitt argued that the White House's decisions on MFN "would inevitably be against the backdrop of China's actions on these issues." On the Algerian nuclear problem, Kimmitt offered his appreciation over China's statement on nuclear cooperation with Algeria and expressed hope that Beijing would not only "encourage" Algiers to contact the IAEA, but that China would also sign the NPT. Kimmitt expressed greater disquiet about China's nuclear relationship with Pakistan. After insisting that Beijing had a "serious and responsible" attitude toward nonproliferation problems, Liu observed that Washington had policy "contradictions," e.g., "refusal to make an unconditional commitment not to use nuclear weapons against NFZ's [nuclear free zones] or against non-nuclear countries."

Document 13: U.S. embassy Algeria cable 02133 to State Department, "Algerian Nuclear Developments," 22 May 1991, Confidential

The embassy describes the Algerian government's media strategy, as well as the efforts of U.S. diplomats to "keep the safeguards issue before our Algerian contacts." During a conversation with Ambassador Ross, the Chinese ambassador emphasized the "peaceful research and industrial applications" of the project. The reactor could be used later for power generation "but consideration of such a possibility was some time off." Noting that the early media reports, e.g. Gertz's, had claimed that the reactor was near the Mediterranean coast, the embassy pointed out that it was being built on a high plateau above the Atlas Mountains, 130 kilometers south of the capital.

Document 14: Memo from Steve Aoki to Herb Levin, Ellie Busick, and Richard Albright, n.d., enclosing Chinese paper on nuclear cooperation with Algeria, 29 May 1991, Confidential

As another sign of a forthcoming attitude on Beijing's part, during a meeting with Steven Aoki, special assistant to Under Secretary Reginald Bartholomew, Chinese embassy political counselor Xiao Houde handed over a paper with background information on the Algerian project. It included details on the purpose of the reactor and the nuclear materials provided to the Algerians. According to Aoki's report, China was "encouraging Algeria to move quickly to get safeguards in place."

Documents 15a and 15b: Under Secretary Bartholomew's Trip to China

Documet 15a: Briefing Paper on "Algerian Nuclear Reactor," n.d. [late May-early June 1991], Secret, excised copy

Document 15b: Talking Points, 28 May 1991, Secret, excised copy

In preparation for Bartholemew's mid-June trip, the State Department prepared some background information along with a "non-paper" that described the information that the Bush administration wanted from Beijing to understand better "the nature of Sino-Algerian nuclear cooperation." It is possible that the separate talking points document related to the non-paper because it included at least one question that Washington hoped that Beijing would answer: confirmation that China, like the United States, would be "seriously concerned" if Algeria was to "import, or develop indigenously, an enrichment or reprocessing capability."

Document 16: U.S. embassy Algeria cable 02382 to State Department, "TV Feature on Algerian Nuclear Program," 7 June 1991, Confidential

Reporting on a two-hour long TV documentary on the Es Salam reactor, which included interior and exterior footage and interviews with managers and scientists, the Embassy commented that "this was a remarkable and uncharacteristic case of Algerian openness." Nevertheless, the Embassy believed that it would have "been more convincing had it come spontaneously, instead as part of a deliberate campaign to counter western press reports."

Documents 17a and 17b: Senator Biden's Questions to the State Department

Document 17a: Question for the Record Submitted to Mary Ann Casey by Senator Biden, June 25, 1971, Secret/NoForn, Excised copy

Document 17b: Question for the Record Submitted to Mary Ann Casey by Senator Biden, June 25, 1971, Unclassified

Senator Joseph Biden (D-Del), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a vocal critic of Beijing's nuclear policy, had argued that, in light of the Algerian problem and related nuclear issues, "it appears China is rapidly becoming a rogue elephant among the community of nations." To get background information on the Algerian, Biden submitted a series of questions to Mary Ann Casey, who was then serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Analysis in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (she became Ambassador to Algeria later in the year). The classified material shows that by late June the government was still unsure why the cooling towers were so large. "A 50 MWT reactor-depending on the type of fuel used-would be able to produce a significant amount of plutonium in its spent fuel" , enough to fuel at least one device a year. On the cost of the reactor, INR made the point that the "Chinese may have inflated the actual cost of the facility in order to enhance the hard currency profit that would accrue."

Document 18: "Talking Points on Algerian Nuclear Developments for Delivery to Senators Glenn and Roth (SGA), Senators Pell and Helms (SFRC), and Congressmen Fascell and Broomfield (HFAC)," circa 29 July 1991, Secret/NoForn, Excised Copy

Material prepared by INR for key Congressmen in late July repeated some of the points made in earlier briefing papers. Noting that the reactor's design specifications were consistent with a research program, INR noted that the Es Salem reactor was similar to one located at the Institute of Atomic Energy Research near Beijing. While questions about the cooling tower remained, once Algeria had negotiated a safeguards agreement with the IAEA it would provide the Agency with technical information about the reactor that would provide answers. The "defensive measures" that the Algerians had taken near the reactor "coincided with the duration of Desert Storm" (Internally divided over the Gulf conflict, Algeria had abstained from the UN resolutions against Iraq).

Document 19: State Department cable 281258 to Embassy Switzerland, "Proposed Sale of Hot Isostatic Press to Algeria," 26 August 1991, Confidential, Excised Copy

While waiting for the Algerians to take action with the IAEA, Washington remained concerned about Algeria's intentions; for example, an excised cable suggests pressure on the Swiss not to sell a hot isostatic press to Algiers. A dual-use technology, a hot-istostatic press had significant military potential, both for missile and nuclear weapons programs.

Document 20: "The Algerian Nuclear Program," n.d. [circa 1 September 1991], Secret/NoForn

The Policy Coordinating Committee [PCC] on Non-Proliferation updated its Algeria paper sometime in September 1991. Besides providing basic background information, the PCC updated the state of play on the Algerian approach to the IAEA noting that "Algeria's record on timely completion of safeguards negotiations with the IAEA on the [Argentine reactor] is not a good one." The PCC emphasized the "current political uncertainties." Until elections were held, probably later in the year, "the government will not be able/willing to take significant decisions." Thus, U.S. pressure for a safeguards agreement could not become public information lest the subject "become a highly charged political issue." The PCC would continue its pressure on the Algerian government but if a "significant nuclear proliferation risk" emerged, it would explore "other options."

Documents 21a-c: Missing Documents

Document 21a: James R. Hall to Ambassador Kennedy, "New York Times Article, 11/15/1991, Headlined 'Algerian Reactor: A Chinese Export,'" 18 November 1991, Secret, Excised copy

Document 21b: Letter, Ambassador Richard Kennedy to Editor of the New York Times, 20 November 1991

Document 21c: Memorandum, Douglas P. Mulholland to Mr. Eagleburger, "Press Allegations Concerning Data on Sino-Algerian Nuclear Cooperation," 25 November 1991, Secret, Excised Copy

A New York Times story in November 1991 highlighted initial U.S. "inaction" on the Algerian nuclear problem because of "longstanding disagreements within the Government over how to interpret intelligence data and how tough to be on China." According to the article, in 1988 Richard Kennedy had received information on the Algerian-China nuclear deal but had, in effect, sat on the material for several years. The implication was that he wanted to avoid a controversy with China. Declassified reports show, however, that Kennedy had not suppressed the documents-a letter in English and several documents in French and Chinese-but had them sent to INR for analysis. "The documents were misplaced and were discovered by INR during a March 1991 file search." Writing to the editor of the Times, Kennedy complained that no one had interviewed him and insisted that the "information [about Algeria had been] put in the hands of the proper intelligence office without delay." The Times did not publish his letter. (Note 11)

Document 22: "Core Points Nuclear Proliferation and the NPT," n.d. [circa October-November 1991], Secret

As background for a November 1991 trip to Beijing, Secretary of State James Baker received some talking points on China and the nuclear proliferation problem. While supporting Beijing's decision to sign the NPT, State Department officials remained concerned about China's ambiguous nuclear relationship with Algeria, Iran, and Pakistan. Perhaps not entirely confident that Beijing got the message that Under Secretary of State Bartholomew had delivered during his June visit (if he had had an opportunity to deliver it at all), Baker's advisers suggested that he express hope that China "will continue to urge Algeria to complete its safeguards agreement" and "refrain from any transfers of sensitive nuclear technologies to Algeria."


1. The most comprehensive study on the Algerian nuclear problem to date has been David Albright and Corey Hinderstein, "Algeria: Big Deal in the Desert?" The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 56 (May-June 2001): 45-52. See also Rodney W. Jones et al., Tracking Nuclear Proliferation: A Guide in Maps and Charts 1998 (Washington, DC., Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1998), 163-167.

2. "China Helps Algeria Develop Nuclear Weapons," The Washington Times, 11 April 1991.

3. For a valuable review of the debate in the intelligence community, see Mark Hibbs, "Cooling Towers Are Key to Claim Algeria is Building Bomb Reactor," Nucleonics Week, 18 April 1991.

4. See document 16 B. The Sunday Times (London) reported the incident, but not the attache's name; see "China Helps Algeria Build First Arab Atom Bomb," 29 April 1991.

5. For Algeria's culture of secrecy, see Benjamin Stora, Algeria, 1830-2000: A Short History (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2000), 234-236.

6. Albright and Hinderstein, "Algeria: Big Deal in the Desert?" The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 56 (May-June 2001): 52; James Sterngold, "Experts fear nuke genie's out of bottle," San Francisco Chronicle, 22 November 2004. For on-line information on the current status of the Algerian program, see Institute for Science and International Security, "Country Assessments: Algeria," at, as well as related information on at and

7. See Joseph Cirincione and Uri Levetner, "The Middle East's Nuclear Surge: Recipe for War," The New York Times, 14 August 2007; Sammy Salama and Heidi Weber, "Arab Nuclear Envy," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists September-October 2007, 44-49; and"Nuclear Power for Everyone!," at

8. Jim Mann, "China May be Giving A-arms Aid to Algeria," Los Angeles Times, 12 April 1991, R. Jeffrey Smith, "China Aid on Algerian Reactor May Violate Pledges, Washington Post, 20 April 1991, and Hibbs, "Cooling Towers Are Key to Claim Algeria is Building Bomb Reactor," Nucleonics Week, 18 April 1991.

9. For a current example of why nuclear experts, in and out of government, worry about large heavy-water reactors, see Jeffrey Lewis, "Technical Cooperation for Arak,"

10. For press reporting on the Algerian statements, see Howard LaFranchi, "Algerians Defend Nuclear Program," Christian Science Monitor, 3 May 1991.

11. Elaine Sciolino and Eric Schmitt, "Algerian Reactor Came From China," New York Times, 15 November 1991.