A leaked version of the IAEA's report on Syria appeared on the ISIS site today. While it doesn't say conclusively that Syria was building a reactor, it doesn't look good.
Three issues immediately stand out:
First is paragraph 12. "Analysis of the environmental samples taken from the Dair Alzour site carried out by a number of the Agency’s Network of Analytical Laboratories revealed a significant number of natural uranium particles. The analysis of these particles indicates that the uranium is anthropogenic, i.e. that the material was produced as a result of chemical processing. As indicated above, Syria stated that the only explanation for these particles was that they were contained in the missiles used to destroy the building."
This basically says that the uranium traces found at the site are not depleted uranium, ultra-hard metal sometimes used in munitions. If true, this would serious undermine Syria's recent claim that the particles were from Israeli bombs dropped at the Al-Kibar site. The paragraph also suggests that the anthropogenic uranium found at the site could have been nuclear fuel to be loaded into the Korean-designed reactor the US and Israel allege was at the site. If true, this suggests the reactor was closer to being operational than previously thought.
Second is the previous paragraph, 11: "As part of its assessment, the Agency has conducted an evaluation of the water pumping infrastructure observed by it during the June 2008 visit to Dair Alzour. The results of that evaluation indicate that the pumping capacity is adequate for a reactor of the size referred to in the allegation (25 MWth). During its visit to the site, the Agency observed sufficient electrical capacity to operate the pumping system."
If true, this seems to contradict statements by Syrian officials that the site could not have been a reactor due to the absence of power lines or water cooling pipes.
Last, and most obviously, Paragraph 10 states pretty clearly that the structure resembles a reactor: "Its containment structure appears to have been similar in dimension and layout to that required for a biological shield for nuclear reactors, and the overall size of the building was sufficient to house the equipment needed for a nuclear reactor of the type alleged." the report also says construction on the building began in spring-summer 2001, during Washington's policy of "constructive engagement" with Syria - long before the US invasion of Iraq.
The IAEA is requesting Syria's cooperation in investigating its findings. It will be interesting to see how the Syrian government responds to the report ahead of the IAEA's board of governors meeting next week.
Syria's claim that it was the Israelis who were responsible for the uranium at their military site was riotously funny. How they thought that that couldn't pass the laugh test is beyond me. I suppose they believed that the use of depleted uranium in munitions would be enough to place doubts in people's minds. Ultimately though, claiming that it was the Israelis who put the uranium there, is a bit too much like a criminal claiming that "the cops put it on me." The first responses to an accusation are telling, and Syria's responses to these accusations are no different.
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