Western intelligence agencies have detected another nuclear plant in Syria – in a Damascus suburb.
Following Israel’s bombing of a nuclear production plant in Syria over three years ago, another nuclear complex, albeit smaller, has now apparently been found, following close analysis of satellite photos.
A German newspaper, the Süddeutsche Zeitung, reports that it has received the photos, but will not publish them because inferences can be made as to when they were taken, and thus to who leaked them.
The small, two-building complex is located in Marj al-Sultan, adjacent to a military base – and to a wealthy suburban area with swimming pools – 15 kilometers east of Damascus. The paper reports that the photos lead analysts to believe that it is a uranium conversion plant for the production of fuel rods. It further stated that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna refused to comment on the photos.
The images of the smaller building show chemical equipment apparently made of stainless steel, as “would be expected in a uranium conversion plant,” according to Western intelligence officials who wished to remain anonymous. Similar technology for the removal of impurities from the uranium is in use in the Iranian conversion plant at Esfahan, though not in North Korea.
Photos of the larger building show specialized equipment for filtering out uranium particles and hazardous chemicals resulting from the production process.
Western intelligence sources say there are “links” between the Al-Kibar site, destroyed by Israel in 2007, and Marj al-Sultan. Apparently the same people were seen at both locations and/or transports between the plants were observed.
The current status of the complex is not known. The IAEA requested access to the site in May 2008, and satellite images at the end of July showed suspicious activity in the area: trucks appear to be seen and the flooring was apparently replaced. The Syrians have not produced the requested explanations.
The Syrians have never allowed the Al-Kibar site to be thoroughly investigated by international authorities. A huge concrete slab now covers the site, and the truth of what was there is likely to remain buried there for many decades or centuries.