James ActonIAEA Official Disputes The Box

Friend of Wonk, Mark Fitzpatrick, pointed me in the direction of an interview on Egyptian TV with, Yousry Abushady, a section head in the IAEA Department of Safeguards, about the alleged Syrian reactor.

Part 2 can be found here.

Speaking in his “personal capacity”, Abushady disputes that the BoE was a Magnox reactor. In part two, he claims 30-40 errors in the CIA briefing to Congress (If you don’t recall the little movie, here is the video and the text of the press briefing).

Alshady elaborates on only one alleged “error,” however. During the first segment, he claimes that 5MWe reactor at Yongbyon is 50m high and that the BoE is only 10m high. Even assuming that some of the BoE is underground, he says this disparity is too much for the reactors to be of the same type.

So, is this a startling revelation undermining US claims or an IAEA inspector with an anti-US bias going off on one, or even just an honest guy making a mistake?

I am off Italy this afternoon (along with Jeffrey as it happens) so don’t have time to get into this in as much depth as it merits but, off the top, here are my thoughts …

There are two key questions:

1. Is Abushady right about the height of the North Korea reactor?

I cannot find a good independent number for the height of the North Korean reactor. I’m sure it’s out there somewhere so please do comment if you know it.

However, let’s assume that 50m is right. What’s not clear to me is whether Abushady is including the primary stack (if that’s the right term) of the North Korean reactor in this number (and from his picture it looks like he might be). If he is, his comparison is rather disingenuous since the Syrian reactor doesn’t have an equivalent structure so the relevant height for comparison purposes should be the height of roof on the building—considerably less than 50m.

2. Is Abushady right about the height of the Syrian reactor?

Well, the first place to look for a discussion of this question is, of course, the comments in this blog!

I don’t have time to revise in detail that outstanding discussion now but a consensus seemed to be emerging in the 15—20m range, i.e. somewhat higher than Abushady says. And remember, you have to add to this however much of the reactor is supposed to be underground.

In summary, my initial, not-too-fully considered reaction is to be skeptical of Abushady. My guess is that he is overestimating the height of Yongbyon (by including the stack) and underestimating the height of the BoE. But, Abushady is, as he says, a guy that knows a lot about the North Korean reactor so I don’t want to sound too dogmatic.

What I would say, however, is that it is unhelpful to have such analysis coming from an IAEA official in his “personal capacity”. If the IAEA has concerns about this they should be in the official reports not spread in this way.

Finally, if any of you speak Arabic (as I’m sure a number of you do) I would love a sense of how accurate the translation is.

Comments

  1. Derek (History)

    Yossi suggested the height of Yongbyon at 16.8m in comments on a previous post. However, there was no citation made for where the figure was obtained. There is also discussion about how much smaller the Syrian reactor was.

  2. blowback (History)

    What do you mean by the “primary stack”? It is not exactly a common term when applied to Magnox reactors – do a search on Google with “primary stack” magnox and see what I mean.

    BTW, the suggestion that the box was camoflaged as a Byzantine castle is pathetic nobody in their right mind would build a

    As to the height of the box, if you look at the box:

    The overall height is at most somewhere between four and five times the height of the blue door, so if the blue door is 2m high then that gives a height of less than ten metres, the door would have to be about 4.5 metres for the overall height of the building to be 20 metres.

    What I would say, however, is that it is unhelpful to have such analysis coming from an IAEA official in his “personal capacity”. If the IAEA has concerns about this they should be in the official reports not spread in this way.

    This site among others has been happy to accept at face value off-the-record briefings by unnamed “IAEA officials” that support the Israeli view that it was a reactor, so you have no right to complain when a named IAEA official makes a personnal public statement particularly since there is very strong evidence that the IAEA is “driven” by political decisions from the White House.

  3. Matt (History)

    The translation is fine.

  4. Yossi

    Derek, 16.8m is Yongbyon height of the pressure vessel not the reactor building. I did say the figure was taken from the Sandia report, probably the best source there is.

  5. Geoff Forden (History)

    James—I used my program to calculate the heights form Google Earth of both the Yongbong reactor building (I get 43.7 m) and the height of the BOE (I get 17.5 m). So there does really appear to be significant difference!

  6. Geoff Forden (History)

    I should note that the Yongbong reactor building is a complex, multilevel structure. Most of that height comes from the central box sitting on top of the rest of the building and is presumably used for, among other things, the overhead cranes that load the reactor. The Northwest corner of the building, which appears to be its lowest level, is 13 m high.

  7. AWR (History)

    Abushady most likely is speaking “in his personal capacity,” which is “soon-to-be retired.” Too bad; he’s a good guy, has been around a lot of the difficult issues facing the IAEA, and has made a great contribution to the debate on this matter.

  8. Rwendland (History)

    AWR, Abushady does say in Part 2 “I believe this is the first time these comments are permitted, with the exception of one or two short hints.” (at 4:22) So maybe this will not hasten a retirement at all.

  9. scud

    “the IAEA is “driven” by political decisions from the White House”, says blowback.

    You must be kidding!?

    I’m sure the White House would love to “drive” the Agency, but – er, how can I put this nicely – that’s not exactly a factually correct description of relations between the USG and the Agency in the past 6 years…

    Also, it’s very different to have an IAEA person speaking anonymously for background and to have an IAEA low-level official taking publicly a strong stance on a controversial issue. Alas, the statement gives credence to the idea that some IAEA officials can’t put their nationality behind them when they do their work.

    Finally, what you refer to is not only the “Israeli view”, but also a view shared by several Member States, which have their own intel on the matter.

  10. AYA

    If you check the google site for the NK reactor and you have some satellite imagery assessemnt, you will find the building is composed of three parts. The first part from the ground level is a large (almost) square box of dimensions not far from the Syrian building, with a height about 25 to 30m. The second part installed over the first part is somehow smaller (almost) square building with height 20-25m. The total Height of both is between 45 to 55 m.
    The Stack is of a height between 45 to 55 m and stands over a base at about 30 to 35 m from the ground level. So, the total stack height from the ground is from 75 to 85m.
    As for the Syrian building there is only one big box of a height between 10 to 12m. The underground depth appears in the satellite photo of destruction could be 6 to 8 m.
    Abushady reference heights and the estimate values in the comment of Geof Forden are apparently within these limits or close.

  11. Gump (History)

    The Vice President has finally set the record straight. There is no need to debate this anymore. His intelligence is the best. In an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Cheney outlined reasons North Korea remains a trouble spot that President-elect Barack Obama will have to address. He says the communist regime has its own nuclear ambitions, for instance, and “helped the Syrians build a nuclear reactor.”

  12. Yossi (History)

    Abushady talks only on a height comparison between Yongbyon and BoE. This is only one and not the best argument against BoE being a nuclear reactor. There are serious counter indications to the nuclear theory, some of the USIC claims were refuted and one of the ground photos it released was proven fake. The conclusion is it’s unlikely the site was a nuclear reactor.

  13. Glenn Kessler (History)

    Vice President Cheney appears to have no doubts. Look at this transcript of an interview with the Associated Press this week:

    VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: I’m going to pass on that, partly because I don’t want the headline, Cheney announces new axis of evil. (Laughter.) I can talk about problem areas that need to be watched and addressed, and I’ll try to be brief. But North Korea continues to be a problem partly because they haven’t kept their commitment to give us a full and complete declaration, partly because it looks like they have a continuing, ongoing program to produce highly enriched uranium, in addition to what they were doing in Yongbyon at their plutonium reactor. They helped the Syrians build a nuclear reactor, which is a major problem.

    Q For sure?

    VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: I’m going to leave North Korea at that point. Move on to —

    Q You said they helped them build one?

    VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: They did, yes.

    Q For sure?

    VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Yes.

    Q Okay. Okay.

    VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Yes, I’m confident of that statement.

  14. Cernig (History)

    Cheney was confident Iraq had WMD and that the invading coalition would be greeted as liberators because he told his analysts to tell him so. He was confident that torture and rendition were not illegal because he told his lawyers to tell him so.

    Cheney’s confidence does not inspire confidence.

  15. Allen Thomson (History)

    > VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Yes, I’m confident of that statement.

    That’s a kiss of death if ever there were one.

    Seriously, I still think there is good reason to have a symposium, even if a virtual/wiki one, to present and discuss all the pros and cons of the reactor and other hypotheses.

  16. WYA (History)

    Although I agree with Yossi that there are other serious points against the USIC report. I believe the height is one of the most clear points. Abushady said he has 30 to 40 other points of errors of the report, he may clarify and reveal these points in the future.

  17. Cheryl Rofer (History)

    Andrew Foland calculated the height of the Box at about 25 m. You can find a detailed discussion at the link.

    This is consistent with the 4.5 meter estimate for the blue door above, which looks like a rollup truck entrance.

    But I would continue to question whether the building in that photograph is indeed the box that was bombed.

  18. Andy (History)

    Cheryl,

    What is the basis of your doubt about the exterior photograph(s)? The exterior features clearly match the satellite imagery (some of which is color, and at an oblique angle), the surrounding topography and the general layout of the site.

    As for the heights, my rough calculations are entirely consistent with others – about 25M. The center hall is probably a meter or two taller. Assuming that Yongbyon’s height is the absolute minimum necessary, and assuming that the BOE is a similar design, then approximately 25M of the BOE would have to be underground. Looking at the bulldozers and the depth of the pit being filled in the following picture, that doesn’t seem unreasonable:

  19. Allen Thomson (History)

    > approximately 25M of the BOE would have to be underground

    If the full 45×45 m plan of the BOE were excavated to that depth, that would have meant removing some 50,000 cubic meters of dirt back in 2001-2002. A few tens of thousands of cubic meters in any case. I wonder if the 2003 imagery shows any signs of where the dirt was taken.

  20. Allen Thomson (History)

    Speaking of dirt and FWIW, I just tried to calculate the volume cut from the hill adjacent to the BOE after the bombing. Using the Google Earth elevations (which I’m leery of in this case) and the measuring tool, I come up with about 6,000 cubic meters.

    Somebody should check that.

  21. AYA

    could we igonre to assess the box height based on the ground photos? all the ground photos are clearly fabricated in adobe photoshop or similar software. the real reference is the satellite image of the box as appears (till today) in google earth. you may use the building shadow in comparison to the cement mixer truck shadow. more precise assessment if you calculate the absolute shadow to the exact time of the image taken and standard formula. if you do thatyou will reach the box height between 10 – 12 meters.

  22. Azr@el (History)

    One great way of knowing what the U.S. or any large consumer of private satellite photography is interested in is by perusing Google earth for high res spots. Google buys portfolios of images from private imagery providers that are generally a year or more old. But the primary users of the images are U.S. and western governments. They determine where and how detailed the shots are.

    So that raises the obvious question, why are there no hi-res google earth shots of the area of the syrian nuclear reactor? Let’s say the U.S. and the Israelis decide to task their imagery sats to this site and not outsource as the U.S. does in Iraq and Afghanistan and as Israel and the U.S. both have done in Iran. Then there should still be hi-res shots of the area in the google flows. Other western governments would be conducting their due diligence, requesting private imagery of the area. These photos would down the road be picked up in the google purchases. This site has been allegedly under observation for many years, yet no hi-res. Strange?

    Most likely, the strike was a rush job. The intel was probably the result more of that famous Israeli ‘sky is falling’ hysteria and proclivity for irrational hyperbola than anything else. Perhaps that’s why U.S. intel attempted to scuttle the IDF strike 24 hours before 0 hour by leaking it. These days I seem to be more worried about the rationality of decision makers in Tel-Aviv than Teheran, especially given the nuclear dimension.

  23. Andy (History)

    Allen,

    It’s unlikely the entire base was excavated. It was probably partially excavated and then a lot of fill was brought in from elsewhere. The area around where the structure sits is level across the entire width of the wadi (in contrast to nearby similar wadis) which indicates that a lot of earth was brought in.

    Google Earth terrain elevation data uses 3 arc second measurements which, at 35 degrees latitude, is a resolution of 90m X 25m. Additionally, the elevation data can have vertical errors as large as 16m, so I’m not sure that you can get a accurate measurement with that tool.

    AYA,

    That’s been done a couple of times, IIRC. The one I remember can be found in a comment on this ACW post and was calculated at 24m. Also, do you have any basis for the assertion the ground photos are fabricated?

    Azr@el,

    The current GE image is a high resolution image taken a month before the strike. Others are available and if you have cash to spare you can order them. You can see some of the other images in Allen’s awesome Syria briefing book.

  24. Yossi (History)

    Andy asked: “What is the basis of your doubt about the exterior photograph(s)?”

    Don’t you remember the opinion of the Israeli digital forensics expert who determined that the “construction photo” is a fake?

  25. Azr@el (History)

    Ad Andy,

    I believe you have missed the entire point of my post. I’m making no assertions about the availability of hi-res commercial satellite imagery.
    A) The major primary consumer of commercial satellite imagery remains western government.
    B) Google purchases portfolio’s of second hand images(1-2 years old)
    Thus most of hi-res spots on Google Earth are those that have been designated by western governments. This is one of the reasons there are so many hi-res spots of Afghanistan,Iraq, Somailia, the Southern Philippines, etc.

    Now, that I have clarified my premise, please consult my original post for the rest of my arguments.

  26. Andy (History)

    Yossi said, “Don’t you remember the opinion of the Israeli digital forensics expert who determined that the “construction photo” is a fake?”

    I believe I’ve answered that a couple of times now (and Jeffrey did as well), but here it is again: First, there is more than one photo of the outside of the building. Second, the opinion of one unnamed “expert” is just that – opinion. Third, what that expert apparently said (things like the windows being too dark) doesn’t prove the picture was faked. The evidence provided, at most, points to the kind of image enhancement/correction techniques that are standard in imagery software. The fact that one person believes the windows are darker than they should be does not prove that the material components of the picture itself are fake.

    Azr@el,

    Now I’m confused. I’m not sure what your argument is then, because you originally asked, “why are there no hi-res google earth shots of the area of the syrian nuclear reactor?” That was the question I answered. I’ll add that Google Earth has to license images and so it can’t add simply add any image it wants to its database. Hence Google Earth imagery comes from a limited number of providers. If there’s something I’ve missed, please enlighten me.

  27. Gump (History)

    Andy,

    I’m sorry if I am asking about an old issue. What is the original source of the photo with bulldozers you posted in your comment Jan 10?

  28. Allen Thomson (History)

    I have much sympathy for those who are skeptical or outright disbelieving of the Official Story that the BOE housed an incipient plutonium production reactor. Indeed, I have a daily twinge that all this may turn out to be something totally different than it’s being presented. The fact that the US Government did such a pathetically incompetent job with the video presentation last April doesn’t help.

    That said, I have a hard time figuring out what the alternative hypotheses and the evidence for them and against the Official Story are. Probably I should have tried harder.

    So I make an offer: I’ll open an Alternative and Dissenting Views annex at the end of http://www.fas.org/man/eprint/syria.pdf and put in material like Yossi and others here have suggested or may want to contribute.

    Would that be useful?

  29. Yossi

    Andy,

    Sorry, you are making a false representation of the facts. I understand it’s sometimes difficult to control our personal bias but the analyst ethical code requires it. Please check back and see:

    * You didn’t “answer” this issue nor did Jeffrey

    * The “construction photo” is the only outside ground photo released

    * You didn’t even ask for the name of the digital forensics expert

    * The expert said the upper part of the “rods” was built in Photoshop

    * Faking the “rods” is no “enhancement”, it’s a fraud

  30. Yossi (History)

    Allen Thomson asks if giving a FAS outlet to skeptic opinions is useful or not. Being a “USIC dissident” I should abstain from answering this question. I can point that:

    * The IAEA didn’t accept the USIC story and accuses several countries, including the US, of withholding crucial evidence.

    * No further info was released by the USIC after the Congress briefing.

    * No political acts were taken by the US administration.

    * Even faithful ISIS distanced itself from the USIC position.

    * There are serious counter indications to the nuclear theory.

    * The only outside ground photo released is a fake.

    Maybe we should switch the terminology and say that those who believe the USIC story are “the skeptics”?

  31. Andy (History)

    Gump,

    The source is a USG satellite image from the April DNI presentation. I use the global security screen captures since they seem to be the best quality.

    Allen,

    I’ve come to the same conclusion about competing hypotheses and I’ve looked at several alternatives. I think an alternative views section could be quite helpful provided it’s more than simply a laundry list of perceived inconsistencies on the reactor theory. Such lists, tied to no alternatives, are pretty much useless unless they are based on solid evidence. It is this kind of analysis that the 9/11 truthers use to “prove” the official story is a lie – focusing on minor inconsistencies (which one has with any theory) and ignoring the material evidence. Don’t go that route.

    Obviously, any provable or credible evidence that contradicts the reactor theory should be included (emphasis on provable and credible). One thing I’ve wanted to do for a while is construct an ACH matrix to examine alternatives, but I simply haven’t had the time. That might be a good way to look at alternative theories in your briefing book.

  32. Andy (History)

    Yossi,

    Jeffrey and I did answer the “issue” and addressed several of your specific points in some detail and offered both other explanations to your conclusion as well as evidence that directly contradicts your conclusion.

    There are five outside ground photos, not one.
    Photo 1
    Photo 2 (in which one can see columns which are very similar to those you believe are faked)
    Photo 3
    Photo 4 (and in this one, you can see some of the columns as well)
    Photo 5 (The one you believe is faked)

    The name of the “expert” is immaterial because this person is only offering an opinion – not something that can be verified without additional evidence. If one is going to say that the support columns (“rods”) in that one picture are faked, then one needs to provide some evidence for it. If you want to provide the name, that’s fine, but it doesn’t change the fact that the assertion of fakery is still just opinion without some kind of supporting evidence. The point I made in the previous thread – that those same “rods” are seen in other photos from both ground and satellite – also needs to be addressed in order to provide a compelling argument for fakery since that is evidence which directly contradicts your conclusion. Now, if this “expert” could come up something substantive and provide a defense for that and the other points raised by Jeffrey and I in other posts, then that would be helpful. As it stands, there is nothing of substance to suggest any of the photographs are outright fakes beyond opinion. You may have noticed that several commenters here have said they believe the images are faked. In each case, I’ve asked for the basis underlying that opinion and so far none have even answered, let alone provided either argument or evidence.

    I understand it’s sometimes difficult to control our personal bias but the analyst ethical code requires it.

    Thanks for the advice, but analysis has been my job for almost 20 years. I’m perfectly aware of personal bias and know enough of cognitive theory to understand it’s impossible to completely avoid. Regardless, it’s not bias to point out that opinion is not fact. Nor is it bias to ask for some evidence before drawing conclusions.

  33. Allen Thomson (History)

    > construct an ACH matrix to examine alternatives

    Yes, that is probably the way to go. My enthusiasm for ACH is bounded, but it’s a better approach than the laundry list. I’ll see what I can do to start setting up a matrix. Help and suggestions would be appreciated — my email address is on the first page of the sourcebook.

    For background on ACH, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analysis_of_Competing_Hypotheses

    FWIW, it appears that the CIA/USIC did an ACH of their own:

    https://www.cia.gov/news-information/speeches-testimony/speeches-testimony-archive-2008/directors-remarks-at-lawac.html

    “Still, our analysts were open to alternative possibilities at every juncture. Early on, they applied a methodology that laid out the inconsistencies in each competing hypothesis. They carefully examined whether the building might be for another purpose, like a conventional power plant, or a water treatment facility. In each case, the arguments simply didn’t add up. The reactor hypothesis was the most difficult to refute with the available evidence.”

  34. Rwendland (History)

    On the height of the BoE, I do not recall anyone using the very simple technique of measuring the USIC 3D model in the video, where we are conveniently given a side-on image here.

    I believe the length of this north side is a pretty much agreed as 47m, which implies a height of about 18m [(5.8 / 16) * 47 = 17.04 plus a small allowance for a slightly off-angle].

    One would hope this 3D model is the result of careful professional image analysis, so measuring it would give a good estimate.

    I’ve also tried carefully analysing this photo in which the building does look taller than in the 3D model, and from this I come out with taller estimates between 19m and 22m, which is bit odd.

    A hazard here, and some of the other techniques, is that the image -> video -> image transfers may have introduced height/width ratio distortion.

    The centre of the roof is raised a bit further of course.

  35. Yossi (History)

    Andy, look again at your “Photo 1”. Do you see the electric cable entering BoE at mid-height? It’s perfectly straight, contrary to satellite imagery, engineering practice and plain old physics.

    What does this mean? You are looking at a hyper-realistic virtual model constructed from un-released fake ground photos or from sheer imagination. Pick your choice.

  36. Yossi (History)

    In “Photo 2” the electric cable doesn’t appear yet. It seems to be a visual brother of “Photo 1”. I think both are model not real photos.

    “Photo 3” and “Photo 4” are brown tinted like the “core top” photo. My guess is they are model too.

    “Photo 5” is clearly fake, you don’t need digital forensics for this. Look at the upper part of the “rods” in front of the super-structure. They merge into the building in spite of being distinct and separated objects, that’s because the shadowing is wrong. Correct shadows are notoriously difficult to “manufacture”. Now look at the location of the “rods” bases on the roof and try to convince yourself they are plausible from an engineering point of view. It wouldn’t be easy.

  37. Azr@el (History)

    Ad Andy,

    Google does not purchase single images, it purchases bulk portfolios of older images held in the DB of commercial imagery provider. These images, their location and resolution are not determined by Google, rather they are determined by the primary consumer. Google pieces these ‘second hand’ images together to provide a complete globe. Now since Google earth is a mishmash of different resolutions what occurs is spots of hi-res in a sea of low res. The only spots that have hi-res are areas where a primary consumer has ordered hi-res from the commercial imagery provider in the past, and those images exist in their DB to be sold en bulk to Google down the road after the exclusivity clause expires.

    Thus if you peruse Google Earth for hi-res spots, you’ll notice they tend to cluster mainly in post-industrial cities where primary consumers request them for land development or in odd places such as the mountains of waziristan where the U.S. military or major media request them.

    Which begs the question, if this site has been under intensive scrutiny for the last few years, someone must have ordered hi-res images of the area. The U.S. military, the Israelis and western Intel all use commercial imagery to supplement their own in house satellite recce. If hi-res images were requested within the last few years up to a couple of years ago then those images would have wound up in the lots sold to Google and would be available in Google earth.

    The fact that they are not suggest that the story of long term observation of this site is not entirely accurate.

    Again the question, considering the process of how hi-res satellite images enter into the Google earth DB, “why are there no hi-res google earth shots of the area of the syrian nuclear reactor?”

  38. Yossi (History)

    Azr@el, are you saying that IAEA accusation is correct? They said that commercial satellite images they need for their investigation were removed from circulation in order to sabotage it. Since they pointed a finger at all countries having commercial satellite imagery services it’s unlikely that Syria did it and a more plausible suspect is a Western country or ally.

  39. Yossi (History)

    The leading expert on digital forensics is Prof. Hany Farid. Maybe FAS or ACW will contact him and ask his opinion? Since he’s an American he may be afraid to rule against the USIC and will refuse. If so we can look for another one.

  40. Azr@el (History)

    Ad Yossi,

    I’m not able to speak to the IAEA’s accusations. I’m only noting the absence of .5m GSD images of the site and nearby areas (Sites of interests are normally clustered with additional Hi-res spots, nearby intersections, bridges, etc..) that should be in Google Earth if the official story is accurate.

    U.S. birds have GSD ,with digital enhancements and an ACB, can reach down to 6 cm, commercial birds unregulated by the 50cm cap max out somewhere near 38 cm.(high flying UAV’s get down to 2cm at a fraction of the cost) But commercial sats are still useful for plugging gaps in the observation record of a site. If this facility was being scrutinized as a possible nuclear weapons complex, I find it highly improbably that commercial sats did not hi-res it at some time over the last few years.

  41. Andy (History)

    Allen,

    Thanks for that – I had completely forgotten about those remarks.

    Yossi

    Do you see the electric cable entering BoE at mid-height? It’s perfectly straight, contrary to satellite imagery, engineering practice and plain old physics.

    I don’t agree. Look at the images again. The cables don’t look suspended at all – they look like they’re in a cable tray supported by columns. See this for an example. It’s actually a better method to run support cables than hanging them.

    In “Photo 2” the electric cable doesn’t appear yet. It seems to be a visual brother of “Photo 1”. I think both are model not real photos.

    Yes, there isn’t a cable in photo 2. This is not surprising as photo 2 obviously predates photo 1 since the building is not yet fully enclosed. There is the obvious part missing, but through the upper-left window it’s possible to see a hole in the south face of the building. This hole is visible in this 2003 Ikonos image. Guess what else is missing from that Ikonos image? That’s right, the cabling.

    “Photo 3” and “Photo 4” are brown tinted like the “core top” photo. My guess is they are model too.

    I don’t see how brown tint proves or disproves anything. Maybe you can explain further your reasoning here.

    “Photo 5” is clearly fake, you don’t need digital forensics for this. Look at the upper part of the “rods” in front of the super-structure. They merge into the building in spite of being distinct and separated objects, that’s because the shadowing is wrong. Correct shadows are notoriously difficult to “manufacture”. Now look at the location of the “rods” bases on the roof and try to convince yourself they are plausible from an engineering point of view. It wouldn’t be easy.

    First of all, they are columns, not rods. Secondly, they don’t merge into the building. The image lacks contrast and it was obviously taken on a cloudy day, so the columns have the same tone and brightness as the central portion of the building. Some of those same columns are visible in this post-strike image (at the top and you can see the shadows). Similar columns are visible in other hand-held images, as I’ve pointed out before. And in this later picture of the front facade, one can still see that first row of columns since those upper walls were simply infilled between the columns with concrete. They are faint, but they are visible. I’ve already addressed the “strange” engineering – since the upper portion (minus the central hall) is simply a facade and a lightweight roof, the structural requirements are minimal. This point is buttressed, as I said in the earlier post, by looking at the post-strike damage, which is atypical.

    In short, the appearance of columns “merging” proves nothing when one considers the totality of evidence. We know those columns actually existed because we see them exposed once more in the post-strike imagery.

    Azr@el,

    Which begs the question, if this site has been under intensive scrutiny for the last few years, someone must have ordered hi-res images of the area. The U.S. military, the Israelis and western Intel all use commercial imagery to supplement their own in house satellite recce. If hi-res images were requested within the last few years up to a couple of years ago then those images would have wound up in the lots sold to Google and would be available in Google earth.

    That is theoretically true, but just because something gets imaged does not automatically mean it’s going to get onto GE. Furthermore, you can use the GE layers and search the history for what was imaged when. Allen is, I think, the real expert at this, so maybe he will chime in, but it doesn’t look like the quickbird satellite imaged this site until 2007. And Ikonos only imaged it once in 2003 and not again until 2007.

    The fact that they are not suggest that the story of long term observation of this site is not entirely accurate.

    I think you’re incorrectly assuming there was long term observation of this site.

    Imagery searches of the region revealed a large unidentified building under construction in a remote area near the Euphrates River near a point that we call al Kibar. And there you see the photo. The first time we saw it was after this evidence – look out there – remember ’05, ’06 timeframe – take a look there. We identified the facility. And once again, sometimes the present illuminates not just the future but can illuminate the past. We looked back on historical imagery that found that the only high-quality imagery we had was of a building that looked pretty much like this. It was externally complete.

    Read the whole thing.

    So they really didn’t focus on this building until a year or two before the strike and they didn’t receive compelling evidence that the site was a reactor until the spring of 2007.

  42. Yossi

    Andy,

    * Your BNL link is blocked. Does it work for BNL employees?

    * Sorry, a “cable tray supported by columns” may have been used in BNL but satellite and UAV images clearly show BoE had an electric cable bent under it’s own weight and supported on one column. I remember foggily it looked like the standard arrangement of an isolated copper wire hanging closely below a steel tension wire but I may be wrong. So “Photo 1” is a model image not real ground photo.

    * Thanks for approving my statement that “Photo 2” represents an earlier time. The USIC model apparently had age layers.

    * I don’t claim I have a proof that “Photo 3” and “Photo 4” are model, I said “My guess is they are model”. “Photo 1” is clearly model and “Photo 2” is very likely so. I tend to think all outside ground images, except the “construction photo”, are model. A digital forensics expert like Prof. Farid is needed for a conclusive determination.

    * Thanks for supplying the term “columns”, it’s much better than my “rods”. Being a non-native English speaker I asked for a better term in previous blogs and now my wish was granted.

    * About the fake “Photo 5” I feel you got into denial mode. The expert who examined this photo clearly and without any doubts determined the upper part of the columns was added with software. By the way, part of his practice is in the US, that’s another reason for my being careful about revealing his identity. Again, adding the columns in software is “faking” not “digital processing”.

    * Again, I don’t claim there were or weren’t columns inside BoE, I don’t have time and sufficient reason to check this. I claim the columns in the “construction photo” are fake. Faking a photo is a fraud even if the US does it.

    I’m sorry that what should have been an open scholarly debate had degenerated into a lawyerly battle of attrition. I suggest you read the Dreamer analysis with an open mind first.

  43. Andy (History)

    Yossi,

    The BNL site or something does seem to be having problems this morning. I found the image in the google cache.

    As for the rest of it, I don’t see much point in further debate. I’ve made my arguments and presented my evidence and I don’t think you’ve come close to proving any of the photos were faked or created in a computer model, but I’m perfectly happy to leave it up to readers to decide for themselves. Then there is the “so what” test. Even if the ground photographs did not exist, the reactor theory would still be a competitive one, if not the leading contender, because of the post-strike satellite images.

    I have read the Dreamer analysis and found it wanting. It essentially consists of a bunch of ideas against the reactor theory thrown at a wall to see what sticks. Looking for inconsistencies and attacking perceived flaws in a theory can be a useful tool to check assumptions, but it doesn’t hold much value beyond that. It claims that a CW facility is more likely but doesn’t bother to examine that possibility in any detail. Alternative theories need to be considered against the totality of evidence and the Dreamer analysis completely fails in this regard. The conclusion at the end of the piece is telling: “Conclusion: BoE maybe nuclear probably CW.” How do we know it was “probably” a CW facility? There was no serious attempt to see how all the evidence fits with a CW theory, so one wonders on what basis that conclusion is made. I’m hesitant to make the comparison, but this is exactly the same kind of “analysis” the 9/11 truthers make. They spend all their time on real or perceived inconsistencies with the theory they don’t like and no time examining whether any alternatives are more consistent with the evidence.

    Despite what you may think, I do have an open mind. But that doesn’t mean I will consider everything equally regardless of evidence. Evidence matters. I’ve spent probably way too much of my free time looking at the reactor theory and alternatives. I still think that when the totality of evidence is considered, the reactor theory is the least inconsistent and is therefore currently the best theory. If you or Dreamer or anyone else disagrees, then by all means, do a detailed analysis and demonstrate how the evidence better fits some other hypothesis. It’s not enough to criticize the current theory – one must demonstrate that there is a better alternative. I would love to to read such an analysis, but so far, none yet exists that I can find.

  44. Yossi (History)

    Andy, it’s a fact one ground photo is a fake and most or all others are model images. As someone once said it’s impossible to make someone support an idea that may cost him his cozy job.

    You are right the Dreamer doc is not a complete analysis. It’s called “work notes” and it’s my fault that I chose an imprecise nickname.

    Anyway, the question whether the USIC lied or not becomes less important in view of the coming new world order. With a planned yearly deficit of a trillion the US will be a dead man walking for years.

  45. Azr@el (History)

    After reading the referenced brief, I seem to have more questions then answers. Where is the Pu reprocessor? How were the Syrians hoping to fuel the reactor?

    Does no one else think it a little odd? Someone brings in this Intel; 2003, Nuclear Weapons reactor in Syria…somewhere..2007 We found the reactor…no fac for processing the fuel, no source of fuel…a few months later risk a war by green lighting it’s destruction?

    I think the Syrians would love to have a nuclear deterrent, bargaining chip, whatever as a means of regime survival and perhaps as a lever to end Israeli control of Syrian land (Golan Heights). But do I think the Syrians have the level of technical competence to run the fuel cycle? Even a turn key fuel cycle? The most advanced product the Syrians manufacture are textiles and canned fruits, they don’t even make their own ammunition, I hear their greatest hope for an industrial project is to ink a deal to assemble Iranian cars in country. My skepticism on this matter grows the more I look into the matter.

    And one more issue that I can’t seem to understand…Why are there no major air defense assets anywhere near this site? You would think this would be the crown jewels of the Syria’s efforts and they would do anything to protect it and would be under no illusions that they could hide it forever….unless it was a decoy; meant to be discovered.

  46. Yossi (History)

    A Digital Globe satellite image from 2007-08-05 shows that BoE electric cable was bent under it’s own weight and not perfectly straight. You can see this image in the FAS Sourcebook created by Allen Thomson. It’s now on page 1311 but this may change in the future.

  47. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    Yossi.

    As we discussed before, there is no evidence that the ground image is a fake. There is some evidence that it was digitally processed, but that is not/not sufficient — to my mind — to call into question its credibility.

  48. Hairs (History)

    I remember calculating the height of the original BOE (based on its shadows) as around 26m, plus or minus at least 5m for all my errors. If someone could prove it was really 20m – well I wouldn’t be surprised; but for Abushady to claim 10m…!! I just can’t believe that figure – not unless the satellite timings were wrong (and they checked out pretty accurately for things I do know the height of) or the Earth’s spin axis has mysteriously changed.

    I won’t rehash my old comments here – if you really can’t get to sleep then look through the ACW archive – except to say that I find the reactor explanation less unbelievable than anything else I’ve heard.

    Yossi: I know we disagree on this one, and I owe you a reply on the thread we were following in early December. I’ve been offline because I’ve been moving country, and I’m now in a country that unfortunately won’t open the link you gave. If you like you could contact me via:

    Hairs97 at yahoo dot com

    Alternatively we could wait until Allen’s ACH matrix is up and running.

    Allen: If you’re looking for moral support to build such a website / matrix then I can only take off my (metaphorical) hat to you and say “Yes please, I think it’s a much needed advance”. It sounds like a lot of work, and you’re a braver man than I am for taking it on! 🙂

  49. Hairs (History)

    Azr@el: You wrote:

    “But do I think the Syrians have the level of technical competence to run the fuel cycle? Even a turn key fuel cycle? The most advanced product the Syrians manufacture are textiles and canned fruits, they don’t even make their own ammunition, I hear their greatest hope for an industrial project is to ink a deal to assemble Iranian cars in country.”

    I’m not sure if you really meant this, or were just being metaphorical, but I can assure you that Syrian engineers I have worked with are perfectly capable of operating advanced power stations, and they also have sufficient of the skilled technicians needed for putting together such projects (e.g. welding of high pressure piping). In my estimation they are just as competent as the Iranians, who seem to be getting along fine with the construction of Arak and the enrichment plant at Natanz. Recall that even five years ago there were plenty of voices saying that Iran didn’t have the know-how for industrial scale uranium enrichment, yet here we are watching them spin upwards of 3,000 centrifuges in cascades.

    I think we underestimate (perhaps even patronise) these countries at our peril; they may lack facilities, but their best engineers are every bit as intelligent as those elsewhere in the world, and necessity being the mother of invention they are also very imaginative. I think it’s also safe to assume that if they feel they are working in their own national interest then they’ll be putting in just as much effort, sweat and hours as the Allies put into the Manhattan project…

  50. GF

    There was something about an Israeli expert saying the photo was photoshopped? Something about wrong shadows?

  51. Yossi

    For some reason my response to Jeffrey wasn’t published while later comments did. I wrote that Jeffrey seems to forget the opinion of an Israeli digital forensics expert who determined unequivocally that the upper part of the columns in the “construction photo” was added by software. Such an addition is clearly “faking” not merely “digital processing”. This expert opinion is not surprising in view of the wrong shadowing seen in the photo.

    Could it be that some people are worried that the president elect, said to be critical of the old integrative arm of the USIC, will order a Soviet style purification? I think this is unlikely as people can’t be punished for obeying legitimate orders and history teaches us that those who do the dirty work survive well upon regime changes. Anyway recent developments in the ME may render this issue purely academic.

    Thanks to GF for reminding us of the facts!

  52. Azr@el (History)

    I’m not being patronizing to any nation. I’m merely pointing out facts. The Israelis have a capable industrial base, but even they can’t manage major projects without outside assistance; their a-bomb, the kfir jet, the arrow missile. This is not to say they don’t have great engineers, just the level of engineering integrations makes some projects beyond the technical-industrial grasps of all but a few nations. The doubts about the Iranian nuclear project are just that; No one is claiming that the Iranians are not intelligent or lack in the engineering department yet there is some doubt if they can orchestrate such a large undertaking. But these doubts are somewhat tempered by the fact that the Iranians do seem to be able to pull off major Technical/Industrial projects suggesting a latent ability at project management that makes mastering the nuclear fuel cycle more feasible. And with respect to Syria, if they lack large outside assistance, I find it incredulous that they have managed to pull together the talent and capital to build an atomic fuel cycle. If someone handed Syria, the fissile material and a blueprint, I’m sure they could pony together a bomb, but the fuel cycle is a huge industrial undertaking. It would seem odd that Syria, which doesn’t have a track record of major industrial projects, would choose the fuel cycle as the first one and it would be odder if they managed to pull it off.

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