Kukri (Gurkha) ceremonial knife

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An Indian or Gurkha ceremonial knife called a “kukri” or “khukuri”.  It was presented by Indian, reactor trainees to Al Herriott of CRNL, who led the training program for Indian reactor trainees at Chalk River.  The trainees were preparing for the operation of the CIRUS reactor at Trombay in India.  The 40 MW reactor was modeled on the NRX reactor at Chalk River and first went critical in 1960.  The kukri, a characteristic weapon of the Gurkhas in the Nepalese army, has an overall length of 43 cm.   It is held in a leather scabbard and traditionally is accompanied by two smaller (10 cm long) knives, one of which is a tool for sharpening the main blade.


cir reactor; memento
unknown (~1950)

The CIRUS reactor was originally named CIR (Canada India Reactor).  It was of a Canadian design and was commissioned using heavy water supplied by the USA.  In 1966 Dr. Bhabha, who was a leading Indian scientist, was killed in an airplane crash.  He had wanted the name CIR to be replaced by CIRUS in honour of Cyrus, a much-revered 6th century ruler of Persia.  This was in fact done although it is not known if it was done before or after his death.

Another version of the name change claims the “US” ending to CIRUS was in honour of the US participation in the project – something the USA was very reluctant to admit after India broke its promise not to use material from CIRUS for weapons development.  Neither India nor the USA acknowledge  this claim in any publication found to date.

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