Jeffrey LewisIAEA Reports on Iran and Syria

Here are the new IAEA reports on Iran and Syria.

Analysis to come.


  1. Allen Thomson (History)

    It’s hard to find much comfort in either of those reports. Syria and Iran look, to all appearances, to be in blatant violation of the NPT and are thumbing their noses at the IAEA.

    What, at the end of the day, are the IAEA and the UN going to do about the situation?

  2. BenjaminS

    does anyone know what the SWU of the IR-4 is?

  3. bradley laing (History)

    AAP June 5, 2009, 9:04 pm

    Cold War era nuclear weapons workers have won the right to sue Britain’s Ministry of Defence.

    The High Court ruled on Friday that roughly a thousand weapons workers can pursue their claim for compensation due to on-the-job exposure to radiation, which has been linked to cancer and other health problems.

    The veterans participated in nuclear testing in Australia and on nearby islands in the 1950s.

    The Ministry of Defence has argued the legal time limit for any such suit has expired. The ministry also denies there is enough evidence to support the claim that there is a causal link between illnesses the workers suffered and their old jobs.

    The workers say the government was aware of the health risks they were exposed to and failed to adequately protect them.

  4. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    No, Scott Kemp did some preliminary calculations of the IR-1 through 3.

    |_{width: 40px}. Design|_{width: 80px}. (is like)|_={width: 40px}. Speed (m/s)|_={width: 70px}. Super- critical?|_={width: 60px}. SWU (kg/a)|_{width: 300px}. Current number, location and status|
    |IR-1|P-1|=. 330|=. supercritical|=. 2.5|> 3000 machines installed in cascades|
    |IR-2|short P-2|=. 450|=. subcritical|=. 2.2|~10 machines in one cascade, plus some stand- alone machines|
    |IR-3|short P-2|=. 600|=. subcritical|=. 4.0|~2 prototype stand-alone machines|

    Note. IR-1 is SWU estimate is based on observed efficiency of 42%; IR-2 and IR-3 based on an estimated efficiency of 60%.

  5. Yossi

    * I’m not sure the Syrians violated the NPT. They built a Yellowcake extraction pilot plant with the help of the IAEA. They published their work on producing metallic Uranium from the Yellowcake in the scientific literature. Correct me if I’m wrong but they didn’t have to declare the Uranium unless the amount exceeded several tons. It seems there is no proof they irradiated the Uranium to produce Plutonium and anyway what would they do with few grams of it?

    * The MNSR probable location was my Google Earth start location for a long time. Fascinating place and there was some hint it was connected with the air strike (the “orchards”). There is also a rich history of Digital Globe coverage.

    * The interesting question is whether BoE and the MNSR were really connected or the high brass visiting their Uranium extraction plant went then to the MNSR and BoE and contaminated both sites. According to IAEA leak the Uranium traces, at least those found in the first round, admit such an explanation. This is certainly a very tight visiting schedule and other hypotheses are welcome.

    * It’s not clear if the new findings support or detract from the USIC claim that BoE was a nuclear reactor. It’s possible the Syrians were producing fuel for the Halabiya Magnox by themselves but it’s also possible the military program was at the MNSR and not in BoE. The last option is not far fetched as the MNSR could be “augmented” by homegrown Uranium rods to increase power to practical level. They could just be playing like kids with a technology they can’t afford.

  6. Allen Thomson (History)

    Israel’s reaction to IAEA reports about Iran and Syria
    7 Jun 2009

    Israel calls for firmer measures by the IAEA and the international community

    (Communicated by the MFA Spokesperson)

    Over the weekend, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published the Agency’s latest reports on its investigations in Iran and Syria.

    The report on Iran again contains serious findings of increased uranium enrichment in Iran, in violation of Security Council resolutions, as well as other activities that could be connected to a military nuclear program. The report also emphasizes the IAEA’s inability to carry out full and effective monitoring in Iran due to that country’s continued lack of cooperation. These findings demonstrate that the international community, no more than Israel, cannot place its trust in IAEA monitoring in Iran. Accordingly, what is needed from the international community is immediate and determined action to ensure that Iran will not be able to produce nuclear weapons. The weakness currently displayed by the international community allows a country like North Korea to pursue a policy of defiance, and Iran is an attentive student of this policy.

    Regarding Syria, the report details many suspicious findings as well as Syria’s unresponsiveness to the Agency’s demand to visit the various sites and to provide answers to disturbing issues. This situation reinforces suspicions that Syria is trying to blur evidence of secret nuclear activity that took place at Dir a-Zur in eastern Syria. The Agency should condemn Syria for hiding the facts pertaining to this activity.

    The IAEA Director General has so far refrained from using all the means at his disposal to investigate Syria. Israel calls upon him to conduct an investigation free from political considerations and bias, and also to demand that North Korea, which is mentioned in the report, cooperate in the investigation.

  7. Allen Thomson (History)

    > I’m not sure the Syrians violated the NPT.

    Well, if the Official USIC Story is correct — and I think it’s currently the most consistent with the available information — then the Syrians were about to put a covert plutonium production reactor into operation. The only purpose of which would be to produce plutonium for bombs.

    I am not an international lawyer, nor a lawyer of any sort, but that sounds as if it might be getting close to violating the spirit, if not the letter of the NPT

  8. Yossi

    Allen Thomson,

    Sorry for being so unclear. I meant the Uranium traces at the MNSR may be formally not a NPT violation. The alleged nuclear reactor near Halabiya is a different matter and would certainly be a violation if proven correct. However, I think it’s unlikely there was a Syrian plutonium production reactor. There are serious contra-indications and the alleged ground photos are a bit suspect.

    By the way, are you still willing to add a “dissident section” to the BoE source book?

  9. Tim (History)

    Building a covert reactor of any sort is a violation of the NPT, even without putting it into operation.

    Iran and Syria’s safeguards agreements require them to give the designs of any nuclear facilities to the IAEA to be inspected. Both Iran and Syria are currently in violation of this provision (Syria, for building a covert facility, and Iran, because of non-cooperation with IAEA over Arak).

  10. hass (History)

    Tim, the Arak reactor has been inspected already several times, and is not “covert” by any means. The IAEA and Iran have a legitimate disagreement over the technicalities and legalities, so lets not get carried away with talk of “covert” reactors.

  11. Allen Thomson (History)

    >Sorry for being so unclear. I meant the Uranium traces at the MNSR may be formally not a NPT violation.

    On that, I’d agree out of ignorance of the details. Time may tell. In and of themselves, they only have real importance as they do or don’t connect to other activities.

    > The alleged nuclear reactor near Halabiya is a different matter and would certainly be a violation if proven correct. However, I think it’s unlikely there was a Syrian plutonium production reactor. There are serious contra-indications and the alleged ground photos are a bit suspect.

    Yeah. As I said, I currently accept the USIC story as most consistent with the publicly available information, but the epistemological situation isn’t great.

    > By the way, are you still willing to add a “dissident section” to the BoE source book?

    Sigh. My spirit is willing but the mind is weak. How about this: You write up the section and I’ll put it in as an appendix?

  12. kme

    Israel calling for the IAEA to take action against Iran is pretty funny. I totally understand that the Israelis live in a dangerous neighbourhood and have chosen to stay outside the NPT and rely on nuclear deterrence as a rational response to this – but to then call on the NPT structures to restrain their strategic competitors shows considerable chutzpah.

    I mean, …a country like North Korea to pursue a policy of defiance… – c’mon, do you really not see your own position on the NPT as a policy of defiance, no matter how well justified? I’m sure the Norks believe in their justifications too.

  13. Yossi

    Allen T. thanks!

    Assuming Syria built a nuclear reactor, was it obliged to provide the IAEA with design information at an early stage or could it be declared a short time before fuel loading?

    To provide proper context let’s consider first the security issue. Some time ago our James Acton wondered where Inshas, the Egyptian research reactor is located. There is a reason the location of IAEA safeguarded research reactors in the Middle East is kept secret, the Iraqi research reactor was under IAEA supervision but this didn’t save it from destruction. The NPT champions proved incapable of protecting their proteges or punishing attackers.

    The location of the tiny Syrian research reactor is also kept hidden. Moreover, disinformation decoys are thrown all around. The IAEA apparently cooperates with keeping such secrets but a poor country guarding an investment on the order of a quarter billion may wish to keep the number of those in the know as small as possible.

    The Syrian Safeguards Agreement is supposed to determine when preliminary design information for new facilities is supposed to be provided to the IAEA. Since Syria signed the NPT in 1969 its agreement probably says such information “be provided as early as possible before nuclear material is introduced into a new facility”. This is the famous old version of Code 3.1.

    Now these agreements cannot be amended unilaterally but it seems the IAEA did just that and tried to enforce a modified Code 3.1 retroactively. I wish our very erudite haas would comment on this point.

    Some background on the NPT may make the sensitivity of IAEA enforcement operations more understandable:

    Nuclear weapons are “equalizing deterrents”, allowing weaker states to deter stronger ones. We should ask ourselves why so many states joined a discriminatory treaty like the NPT, giving up an crucial part of their sovereign right to self defense and a significant source of prestige. Possible reasons are that they:

    * didn’t feel really threatened

    * couldn’t afford nukes anyway

    * wanted IAEA meager technical help

    * wanted to buy from the Nuclear Supply Group

    * preferred supervision of their neighbors

    * were pressured by the nuclear weapon states

    * thought that giving up nukes gives soft power

    The balance between pros and cons is tight, that’s why managing the NPT is so delicate. We must keep in mind that the NPT is voluntary and transgression of member states sovereign rights should be minimized as much as possible. IAEA procedures must conform to the highest legal standards, especially since it reports to a political body, the Security Council, and not to a professional international court.

    There are bulls in the porcelain shop like the one quoted by Allen T above who think the IAEA is a whip to be wielded over their neighbors even if they didn’t sign the NPT themselves, built a nuclear arsenal and attacked their neighbors’ safeguarded reactor, but this is just Chutzpe. Hopefully this wouldn’t become a norm otherwise the NPT will collapse.

    The list above suggests means to strengthen the NPT:

    * decrease threats by punishing aggressors

    * increase IAEA technical help budget

    * subsidize buying from the Nuclear Supply Group

    * tighten supervision of violent states

    * make NPT membership provide special benefits