Across the Bay

Thursday, November 20, 2008

If It Looks Like a Duck...

From the Washington Post:

The first independent investigation of the suspected nuclear site in Syria that Israel destroyed last year has bolstered U.S. claims that Damascus was building a secret nuclear reactor, according to a U.N. report that also confirmed the discovery of traces of uranium amid the ruins.

Officials with the United Nations' atomic agency stopped short of declaring the wrecked facility a nuclear reactor, but they said it strongly resembled one. And they noted that Syria had gone to great lengths -- including elaborate "landscaping" with tons of freshly imported soil -- to alter the site before admitting outsiders.

Despite the apparent cleanup effort, environmental sampling by U.N. inspectors turned up traces of uranium, the fissile metal used in nuclear reactors, according to the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the world body's nuclear watchdog.
[T]he senior U.N. official, in describing the finding, said soil collected from areas that had not been obviously landscaped contained "significant" amounts of uranium. Although uranium is present in nature, the particles discovered by the IAEA teams had been "chemically" manipulated by humans but not "enriched," he said, referring to the highly complex process of converting uranium into forms used in nuclear weapons.

"In our view, this kind of material should not be there," he said.

Some nuclear experts speculated that uranium may have been stored at the reactor site for future use. The experts noted that some nuclear reactors, such as the Yongbyon reactor built by North Korea, use a form of processed uranium that has not been artificially enriched. (Emphasis added.)

More from Reuters:

The confidential report, obtained by Reuters, said the IAEA would ask Syria to show debris and equipment it whisked away from the site after the September 2007 Israeli air raid.
It noted that Syria has not produced requested documentation to support its declarations about the nature of the building nor agreed to follow-up IAEA visits to three other locations seen as harbouring possible evidence linked to Israel's target.

"The agency ...intends to request Syria to permit the agency to visit the locations where the debris from the building and any equipment removed from (it) are, for the purpose of taking (test) samples," the report said.