The Syrian reactor and the IAEA

Following the IAF's destruction of the suspected Syrian nuclear reactor at Al-Kibar on September 6, Damascus launched an intensive campaign to destroy all evidence of the existence of the facility. Syria repeatedly insisted that Al-Kibar was a conventional military site, and denied the existence of a nuclear project there. Recently, some Syrian officials have indicated that the IAEA would be welcome to inspect the facility, although no date for an inspection has been set. The following summarizes the main findings of a US government report on Al-Kibar and describes how an IAEA visit might unfold, including what inspectors would look for and how they would carry out their work under less than friendly conditions. The Al-Kibar reactor is believed to have had the following specifications:
  • A natural uranium, graphite moderated, carbon-dioxide cooled reactor, with a full capacity of 20 megawatts.
  • Nuclear fuel containing some 0.5% of aluminum, and clad in a magnesium canister, containing 0.5% zirconium.
  • Several hundred tons of 'nuclear grade' graphite, i.e., of high and specific purity.
  • A reactor core located inside a steel canister placed inside a thick cement encasement.
  • Two heat exchangers, used to dispose of the energy produced by the reactors' operation, located in two heavy cement-walled chambers outside the reactor core.
  • The heat was removed from the carbon dioxide in the heat exchangers by Euphrates River water that was then sent back to the river.