Posted by: Lister | October 28, 2007

Missing Building in Syria

Taken from Yahoo with the caption: “Combination of two satellite pictures taken 10 August 2007 (L) and 24 October 2007 (R) showing installations east of the Euphrates River in eastern Syria taken by DigitalGlobe. Analysts say these commercial satellite images show that a building in Syria that analysts believe may have held a nuclear reactor has been razed since an Israeli air strike on September 6.(AFP/DigitalGlobe/File)”

As for evidence it was a reactor, CBS News has a summary. This seems to be the most convincing part:

The taller roof of North Korea’s reactor measures approximately 32 meters by 24 meters on its sides. There also appears to be a faint square on top of the Syrian building’s roof. It is unclear whether something would be built there, but its dimensions, 24 meters by 22 meters, are consistent with the subsequent construction of an upper roof. From the image, the Syrian building is similar in shape to the North Korean reactor building, but the Syrian building is not far enough along in its construction to make a definitive comparison.

The Washington Post article has a larger version of the picture.

The construction site is located in Syria’s eastern desert near the village of At Tibnah, about 90 miles from the Iraqi border.

[…] The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, has repeatedly requested information about the facility from the Syrian government in the weeks since news of the Israeli raid emerged.

[…] Under IAEA guidelines, construction of any part of a nuclear reactor without formal, advance notice would violate the nation’s obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

That last is contradicted by Haaretz:

“The IAEA has no information about any undeclared nuclear facility in Syria and no information about recent reports,” said an announcement by the IAEA.

“We would obviously investigate any relevant information coming our way. The IAEA secretariat expects any country having information about nuclear-related activities in another country to provide that information to the IAEA.”

[…] According to the IAEA announcement, the agency is in contact with Syrian officials in order to verify the credibility of “recent reports,” apparently alluding to U.S. and Israeli claims that the IAF targeted a Syrian nuclear facility in September.

Shortly after the IAF strike was confirmed, Haaretz contacted the IAEA to inquire as to whether the atomic watchdog agency will investigate the reports of Syrian nuclear activity. The IAEA replied that it had no intention of doing so.

The IAEA statement on Monday is specifically in response to this past weekend’s New York Times report according to which the IAF had bombed a Syrian nuclear reactor which was in the initial stages of construction and was modeled after a North Korean reactor.

Syria is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which prohibits nations from pursuing nuclear research for military purposes. The few nuclear facilities that it maintains in the country are operated under the supervision of the IAEA.

Yet, according to the safeguard agreement, a government is not obligated to report to the IAEA on the start of construction of a nuclear reactor. A state is required to report on the reactor once building reaches the final stages, or a reasonable amount of time prior to the reactor’s activation.

My Previous post on the attack.

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Responses

  1. […] wrote an interesting post today on Missing Building in SyriaHere’s a quick […]

  2. Ynet:

    “IAEA experts are looking back at the evolution of this facility, but with these pictures alone they feel they may be unable to draw conclusions,” the diplomat, familiar with IAEA affairs but not authorised to speak on the record, told Reuters.

    “If the IAEA got credible indications from anyone of nuclear procurement or activity, that would be different, but imagery of a tall building shaped like a square, that’s not enough (to tell whether or not the site may have been a nuclear site).”

    Mohamed ElBaradei, director of the Vienna-based agency, has urged countries with information pointing to possible secret Syrian nuclear work to give it to IAEA inspectors for checks. But on Sunday he said that no one had come forward.

  3. Prof. Uzi Even of Tel Aviv University says the target couldn’t have been a reactor. On the grounds that the target must have been something important, he offers the theory that it was a factory for processing plutonium into bombs.

    But Prof. Uzi Even of Tel Aviv University is challenging them here for the first time. On the basis of an analysis of the same satellite photos, which have been published in the media and on Web sites and are accessible to everyone, he believes that the structure that was attacked and destroyed was not a nuclear reactor. Even, a former Meretz MK, is a chemist who until 1968 worked at the nuclear reactor in Dimona […]

    Even’s questions relate to several substantive issues. First, in the reactor in Yongbyon, one can clearly see a chimney, which is necessary for the emission of the radioactive gases (incidentally, based on the emission of the gases experts can determine the capacity of the reactor). In the satellite photos of the structure in Syria there is no chimney. It could be claimed that the Syrians may not have had time to build it. This is a reasonable answer, but it is overshadowed by the fact that there is evidence that the structure was under construction already four years ago. There are satellite photos of the site from 2003. In these photos one can clearly see in one of the building walls openings, which disappeared in the 2007 photos. “We can assume that construction began even before 2003,” says Even. “In all those years, five years or even more, a chimney had still not been built? Very strange.”

    No less strange in his opinion is the fact that the “reactor” did not have cooling towers. The pumping station seen in the photos, 5 kilometers from the site, cannot, according to him, be a substitute for such towers. “A structure without cooling towers cannot be a reactor,” he says, pointing to the satellite photo from Yongbyon, in which one can clearly see the cooling tower, with steam rising from it.

    Another structure essential for a reactor is missing from the Syrian photos: a plutonium separation facility. As mentioned, the reactor is fueled by enriched uranium of fuel rods, which undergo a process of radiation. In order to turn them into plutonium, they have to be processed chemically in a plutonium separation facility.

    […] All these explanations and others lead Even to believe that what was destroyed was not a nuclear reactor. If this is the case, what was the purpose of the structure?

    “In my estimation this was something very nasty and vicious, and even more dangerous than a reactor,” says Even. “I have no information, only an assessment, but I suspect that it was a plant for processing plutonium, namely a factory for assembling the bomb.”

    In other words, Syria already had several kilograms of plutonium, and it was involved in building a bomb factory (the assembling of one bomb requires about four kilograms of fissionable material).

    Somehow, the plutonium at the target was not thrown into the air when the building exploded. It stayed in the rubble, which has been quickly buried. That was lucky for the Syrians. Not a trace of proof — even though Israeli commandos are supposed to have been on site and taken samples.


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