NEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Pinpointing what?

Photographs said to show Israeli target inside Syria

Independent experts have pinpointed what they believe to be the Euphrates River site in Syria that was bombed by Israel last month, and satellite imagery of the area shows buildings under construction roughly similar in design to a North Korean reactor capable of producing nuclear material for one bomb a year, the experts say.

Photographs of the site taken before the secret Sept. 6 airstrike depict an isolated compound that includes a tall, boxy structure similar to the type of building used to house a gas-graphite reactor. They also show what could have been a pumping station used to supply cooling water for a reactor, say experts David Albright and Paul Brannan of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).

U.S. and international experts and officials familiar with the site, who were shown the photographs yesterday, said there was a strong and credible possibility that they depict the remote compound that was attacked. Israeli officials and the White House declined to comment. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — There is now a “strong and credible possibility” that satellite photographs reveal the target of Israel’s strike on Syria. Which is to say, the photographs reveal where Israel hit — not what Israel hit.

It’s thus curious that with mantra-like repetition we keep on being told that the site in Syria resembled a “North Korea-style reactor.” No such thing exists. There is no North Korean style of nuclear reactor. All the North Koreans did was make use of the declassified design of the Magnox reactor first used in the UK at Calder Hall — it’s a design that has been publicly available for 50 years! It involves the use of unrefined uranium, there is no containment dome; gas — not water — is the coolant. The facility is housed in non-descript industrial buildings which means it’s almost impossible for satellite imagery to provide hard evidence that such buildings would have been designed to contain a reactor. Such evidence would have to be gathered by IAEA inspectors on the ground and since Syria — unlike Israel — is a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Syria would presumably be legally required to provide inspectors access to the site. Rather than push for the evidence to be exposed, Israel preferred to destroy it.

Israel, we are being led to assume, has a greater interest in disregarding international law than in demonstrating to its allies and the rest of the world that Syria might have been engaged in developing a clandestine weapons program. Given that Israel clearly has complete contempt for world opinion, why should the world not with equal contempt dismiss Israel’s fears?

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2 thoughts on “NEWS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Pinpointing what?

  1. blowback

    Where are all the ancillary buildings? Where is the fuel fabrication facility? Don’t the workers get even a canteen? We always hear about how bureaucratic Syria is, so where are the site offices? If this is an active construction site, where are the piles of building material? Just look at how extensive the Yongbyon site is.

    From the ISIS report:

    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 UK Magnox reactors used a refuelling machine which was taller than the fuel rods are long. From memory, the fuel rods were as long as the reactor core is high (one rod per channel), so the refuelling machine required a lot of headspace over the floor on top of the reactor core. The Syrian building doesn’t look tall enough though the ISIS “analysts” speculate that an additional structure could be added on top at a later date which is rubbish. No civil engineer would do this.

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