Jeffrey LewisSyria's Nuclear Program

I was planing a little summary of Syria’s nuclear program. Mark Hibbs, however, beats me to the punch in Syria, IAEA ignore US media reports that Israel attacked nuclear site (it will be posted eventually, subscription only):

Officials at the conference suggested that US media reports asserting that Israel had attacked a phosphate production site in Syria should be heavily discounted.

Senior Syrian officials said on September 21 that the IAEA Department of Safeguards routinely monitors reports of any activity at Syrian phosphate-containing locations.

“The IAEA is fully aware of our phosphate extraction sites and activities,” said Ibrahim Othman, director general of Syria’s Atomic Energy Commission.

A week of news headlines claiming that Israel had bombed a Syrian nuclear installation also led to speculative reports about clandestine activities at known Syrian nuclear sites.

The chief nuclear installation in Syria is a low-power Chinese-supplied research reactor, described by Syrian officials last week has having a power level of about 27 kilowatts (thermal). The reactor, together with two glove boxes equipped with lead glass, would not be able to generate and then separate any radioisotopes, let alone significant amounts of plutonium, they said. The installations are under IAEA safeguards. Syrian officials said that the glove boxes had never been used for separating isotopes. The reactor cannot be operated for more than about eight hours at a time, they said.

Because the Chinese reactor’s capabilities are so modest, Syrian officials said on September 12, Syrian experts have considered replacing the unit with a more advanced and powerful reactor. However, no decision has been taken to approve or finance such a project.

Hibbs also cites Othman syaing that the “The [Higher Education] ministry wanted to invite [AQ] Khan to come to Syria as a professor, and I told them, ‘No’.”

Sorry about the flashing image, but I grabbed it from the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission website.


  1. John McGlynn (History)

    How about posting a summary anyway, especially as the Platts link seems to go nowhere specific for the moment?

  2. Karl Schenzig (History)

    Dear Mr. Lewis,

    Forgive me if this appears obtuse, but I cannot understand why you, as well as others, insist on discussing Syria’s nuclear program in connection to this incident. Have you not considered the possibility that the facility in question may have been simply a storage site for some materials originating in North Korea, perhaps ultimately intended for Iran?

  3. Jeffrey Lewis (History)


    I have expressed doubts about the connection of Syria’s ncuclear program to the strike, something I believe the blockquote makes clear by stating that such reports “should be heavily discounted.”

  4. hass (History)

    Lets also consider the possibility that the site was Elvis’s summer home in Syria, where he lives with Bigfoot. Why not? It could be true.

  5. Jeffrey Lewis (History)


    That is brilliant. I am going to use that.

  6. hass (History)