U.N. Agency Examines Russian Concern About Hitting Syrian Nuke Site

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Sept. 6, 2013, 11:02 a.m.

The U.N atom­ic watch­dog body is re­view­ing Rus­sia’s re­quest for an ana­lys­is of wheth­er a U.S. mil­it­ary strike on Syr­ia could cause a ra­di­ation dis­aster if a mis­sile hits an atom­ic re­act­or, Re­u­ters re­por­ted Fri­day.

“I can con­firm that the (In­ter­na­tion­al Atom­ic En­ergy Agency) IAEA has re­ceived a form­al re­quest from the Rus­si­an Fed­er­a­tion. The agency is con­sid­er­ing the ques­tions raised,” IAEA spokes­wo­man Gill Tu­dor re­portedly said in an e-mail, provid­ing no more spe­cif­ics.

Rus­sia on Thursday sub­mit­ted an of­fi­cial plea to the IAEA to ana­lyze the po­ten­tial for a Syr­i­an nuc­le­ar dis­aster, ac­cord­ing to Rus­si­an press re­ports.

“We re­quest the agency to im­me­di­ately re­act to the cur­rent situ­ation and provide mem­ber states with an ana­lys­is of risks, re­lated to po­ten­tial U.S. strikes on a neut­ron re­act­or and oth­er ob­jects in Syr­ia,” Rus­si­an dip­lo­mat Vladi­mir Voronkov re­portedly said.

Atom­ic spe­cial­ists told Re­u­ters that the Mini­ature Neut­ron Source Re­act­or near Dam­as­cus is not large and any po­ten­tial con­tam­in­a­tion from ra­dio­act­ive fal­lout would be lim­ited to the im­me­di­ate area. The re­search fa­cil­ity might be fueled by about 1 kilo­gram of highly en­riched urani­um, but that is far less than the 25 kilo­grams needed to build a bomb, ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

The wire ser­vice quotes an un­named West­ern dip­lo­mat in Vi­enna who min­im­ized the po­ten­tial ra­di­ation threat.

“It is very un­likely that something like this hap­pens, and the quant­ity which is in this re­search re­act­or is very small,” the en­voy re­portedly said. “I have the feel­ing that the agency does not per­ceive this as a very grave con­cern.”

The IAEA’s board of gov­ernors will meet this week in the Aus­tri­an cap­it­al for a week-long meet­ing, one of four an­nu­ally held by the 35-na­tion body.

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