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

Global Security Newswire Staff
September 6, 2013

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.