Cablegate: Iaea/Syria/Bog Technical Briefing: Agency


DE RUEHUNV #0529/01 3241609
O 201609Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: UNVIE 00521


1. (SBU) The IAEA Technical Briefing on Syria did not yield
many new details beyond those in the Director General's
November 16 report. The Secretariat made its pitch for the
need to continue the Al Kibar investigation, repeating its
outstanding requests for specific Syrian cooperation. DCM
asked the only questions of the Secretariat, inquiring after
additional details on the safeguards implications of the
import of uranyl nitrate and asking where the yellowcake used
in experiments at the MNSR was produced. In response, the
IAEA confirmed that Syria had a safeguards obligation to
report the import of uranyl nitrate. The Secretariat also
confirmed that the yellowcake used in the MNSR experiments
was produced at the IAEA Technical Cooperation
(TC)-subsidized facility at Homs (a pilot plant for producing
uranium yellowcake as a by-product of phosphates used in
fertilizer production). Notably, Syrian Atomic Energy
Director Ibrahim Othman did not speak, although he has
commented in each of the previous technical briefings since
the Al Kibar reactor issue came to light. (Comment: We
presume Othman may not have wanted to dwell on a report that
seems to presage a confirmation before the next Board meeting
in March of safeguards failures in Syria. Mission will
consult like-minded states as to their reactions to the
confirmation that the experiments involved yellowcake from a
TC-financed facility, and consider whether this fact might be
leveraged to pursue transparency and reform in how TC is
monitored. End Comment.) End Summary.

"Stuck" on Al Kibar Investigation

2. (SBU) The IAEA technical briefing was given by Section
Head for Safeguards Operations B2, Max Aparo. Aparo reviewed
the investigation on Al Kibar (or Dair Alzour, as referred to
by the IAEA) to date, concluding that the Agency is "stuck."
He laid out three main areas in which Syria needs to
cooperate: providing necessary access and cooperation to
determine origin of the uranium particles, providing
necessary information and access to the Agency's
investigation of the destroyed facility, and clarifying the
procurements that, in the Agency's view, could support
construction of a reactor. He cited the latest letter from
the Secretariat to Syria dated October 23, 2009 requesting
this cooperation and reminding Syria that the Agency sees no
limit on access just because this is a military site.

Agency Gets Access to Yellowcake
And Uranyl Nitrate at MNSR

3. (SBU) In contrast to the Al Kibar investigation, Aparo
noted that Syria has been "very cooperative" on the Agency's
efforts to determine the origin of the anthropogenic uranium
found at the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) site in
Damascus. Aparo said that inspectors visited the MNSR on
November 17 and Syria provided access to the yellowcake and
to the uranyl nitrate, the materials Syria most recently
suggested could be the source of the anthropogenic uranium.
Furthermore, Aparo specified that the yellowcake was produced
at the Homs plant in Syria. Aparo clarified that uranyl
nitrate was both imported and produced from experiments using
yellowcake at the MNSR and that the material quantities in
question are in grams. In response to our question at the
briefing, Aparo clearly stated that the import of the
commercially available uranyl nitrate standard should have
been declared when imported. However, Aparo did not provide
any specifics on the uranyl nitrate procurement.

4. (SBU) Aparo said that Syria's explanation that uranium
particles came from neutron activation analysis of soil and
ore and from a shielded transport container could not be
corroborated with additional IAEA samples taken in July 2009
(as noted in the report). He gave an extensive review of the
difference between anthropogenic uranium (the type found) and
natural uranium to make clear for the mostly nontechnical
Member State representatives the notable difference that the
former must have been altered via processing.

5. (SBU) Aparo showed a list of four publications from the
Syrian Atomic Energy Commission that the IAEA had recently
asked Syria about, which may be related to the experiments at

the MNSR recently disclosed by Syria. The list was displayed
only briefly, but two of the papers were titled: "Preparation
of in-house neutron detectors and the software needed to
process experimental data, April 2007," and "Measure of the
fast neutron flux in the MNSR, 2007."

6. (SBU) In response to another U.S. question whether there
was any connection between the technical cooperation (TC)
project at Homs and the yellowcake used in the newly reported
experiments, Aparo confirmed that the yellowcake was produced
at Homs. As to whether the experiments utilizing the
yellowcake should have been reported for safeguards purposes,
Aparo said that the Agency is still analyzing the issue. He
added that after the TC-supported project to extract uranium
from phosphates concluded the development of a pilot plant at
Homs, was found not to be commercially feasible.

7. (SBU) Comment: Despite a report that introduced
significant new information, member state reaction to the
Syria briefing was anti-climatic, with only the U.S. asking
questions. Even close likeminded do not seem to understand
the full implications of the MNSR findings, or are unwilling
to confront them. The MNSR findings will need to await
further clarification from the Secretariat, to include
sampling results, which we expect would be reflected in the
March Board report. Meanwhile, as noted above, Mission will
consult like-minded states on the implications of the Homs
findings for transparency practices in the Technical
Cooperation program. We would also encourage further
diplomatic efforts in capitals to stimulate attention to the
increased prospect for confirmed safeguards failures arising
from the IAEA's ongoing Syria investigation. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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