The security fencing at a nuclear facility in the Democratic Republic of Congo (GDRC) was so poor students from a university just 300m away could pass freely through it, leaked US embassy cables reveal.

Released via the Guardian newspaper in the UK, the cables - wires sent from US embassies around the world back to Washington - have embarrassed the US government by shedding light on the otherwise secret world of international diplomacy and reconnaissance.

A precis from four embassy officials who toured the CREN-K Nuclear Research Centre in Kinshasa, the capital of the country, shows that the decrepit security fencing leaves the centre vulnerable to theft and is worryingly accessible to nearby students.

Although the facility's two nuclear reactors are non-functioning, staff continue to conduct nuclear-related research, the cable said.

The security fence, approximately six feet high, surrounds only part of CREN-K. Riddled with holes, there are parts where the fence is missing altogether, has no razor-wire across the top, no lighting at night and no video surveillance.

Students from the University of Kinsasha can and do walk through the fence to cut through the nuclear facility, while subsistence farmers grow manioc (or cassava, a shrub used in the preparation of food) on the site next to the building that houses nuclear waste.

Additionally, there is no fence separating the storage building from the university's women's dormitory.

"The GDRC needs international assistance to secure the facility and its nuclear materials," the cable surmised.